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Collaboration in a
Post Ite vos Era
Edited by Edward Foley OFM Cap
Chicago: Paul Bechtold Library Publications
Catholic Theological Union
Copyright © The Authors. 2019.
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Published 2019 by
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Catholic Theological Union
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Chicago, IL 60615
Focus and Scope: Paul Bechtold Library Publications is a Catholic online, open-access
publisher of theology and pastoral ministry monographs at the Catholic Theological
Union through the Paul Bechtold Library. Its mission is to serve the Church by provid¬
ing a forum for theologians and pastoral ministers to engage the Catholic tradition in
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The mission of Catholic Theological Union is to prepare effective leaders for the
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Cover designed by Holly Silcox
Artwork by Sister Kay Francis Berger OSF, 1933-2017, Artist Laureate of the Sisters of St.
Francis of Mary Immaculate. All rights reserved. Used with permission.
Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data
Names: Foley, Edward, editor.
Title: Defragmenting Franciscanism : collaboration in a post Ite vos era / edited by
Edward Foley OFM Cap.
Description: Chicago, IL : Paul Bechtold Library Publications, Catholic Theological
Union, 2019. | Includes bibliographical references.
Identifiers: ISBN 9780963665997 (print) | ISBN 9780578574110 (ebook)
Subjects: Franciscans—Congresses. | Conventuals—Congresses. | Capuchins—Con¬
gresses. | Monasticism and religious orders—Congresses. | Bulls, Papal. | Brothers (Re¬
ligious)—Congresses. | Friars—Congresses. | Cooperation—Religious aspects—Cath¬
olic Church. | Conference papers and proceedings.
Classification: LCC BX3602.3 .D44 2019
Table of Contents
Introduction: “Beyond Ite vos”
(4 November 2017). 5
The Text of the Papal Bull “Ite vos” . 7
The History and Context of Ite vos
Dominic V. Monti OFM. 21
“May They Grow Holy...” Our Common Franciscan Values
Regis J. Armstrong OFM Cap. 47
Collaboration among Franciscans Today
Jude Winkler OFM Conv. 59
Introduction: A Symposium on “Lifelong Formation for
Franciscan Men in the U.S. in Service of Gods Mission”
(25-27 October 2018). 69
Musings from the Margins
Michael A. Perry OFM. 73
Stewarding the Grace of Fraternitas
Margaret Eletta Guider OSF. 99
Liquidity and the Abyss:
Lifelong Theological Formation for U.S. Franciscans
Daniel P. Horan OFM. 109
A Brotherhood of Missionary Disciples
John Corriveau OFM Cap. 121
This page is intentionally blank
S ince its founding in 1968, Catholic Theological Union [CTU] has
been a gathering point for Franciscans. The Sacred Heart Province
of the OFMs was one of three original religious communities that
founded CTU, and over the decades other Franciscan provinces, com¬
munities, and individuals have become part of the CTU family. Still oth¬
er Franciscan groups have found the confines of CTU to be a welcoming
place for their meetings, worship, and various gatherings.
This volume is a recent and significant sampling of Franciscan contribu¬
tions, originally presented at Catholic Theological Union. The first part
of this work contains presentations that were central to a gathering of
OFM, OFM Capuchin, and OFM Conventual friars at Catholic Theolog¬
ical Union in the fall of 2017. As explained more fully in the introduc¬
tion to that segment of the volume, this gathering to commemorate the
five hundred anniversary of the papal Bull Ite vos came about through
the initiative of three provincial ministers from these First Order com¬
munities. The ensuing day of prayer, study, discussion, and fraternity
was part of a larger global movement toward collaboration across the
In 1997 the St. John the Baptist Province of OFMs established the Duns
Scotus Chair in Spirituality. Part two of this volume includes papers pre¬
sented at a symposium sponsored by that Chair that took place at CTU
in the fall of 2018. As noted in the introduction to that part of the vol¬
ume, this symposium was also an invitation to Franciscan collaboration,
specifically around the topic of formation of Franciscan men in service
of Gods mission.
The papers of these two events have been edited and gathered into a
joint volume to both symbolize the current movement of “Defragment¬
ing Franciscanism,” and to celebrate CTU as one key place where such
defragmenting is taking place.
This publication could not have occurred without the support of the ad¬
ministration of CTU, whom we gratefully acknowledge here. We are also
thankful to the three men who organized the gathering in the fall of
2017: John Celichowski OFM Cap., Mike Kolodziej OFM Conv., and Jo¬
seph Rozansky OFM. We are particularly blessed by the three presenters
from that day who gave permission for their work to be included here:
Regis Armstrong OFM Cap., Dominic Monti OFM, and Jude Winkler
OFM Conv. We are similarly grateful for the four presenters at the 2018
symposium for also allowing their work to appear: John Corriveau OFM
Cap., Margaret Guider OSF, Dan Horan OFM, and Michael Perry OFM.
Melody Layton McMahon, Professor Emerita of Theological Research
and Bibliography at CTU, has been indispensable in turning papers into
a publication and making this resource accessible to our readership. Her
multiple skills and graciousness have rendered this a smooth and pleas¬
ant process. Thanks are also due to her collaborator and our layout edi¬
tor Jaime Briceno. We are very appreciative of Jerry Bleem OFM who
selected the art for our cover and acquired permission for its usage. The
Sisters of St. Francis of Mary Immaculate were very accommodating in
allowing us to employ this beautiful piece by Sr. Kay Francis Berger (d.
2017). Finally, we are thankful to Edward Hagman OFM Cap. for his
careful and speedy proofreading of the work.
The fragmentation of the Franciscan-Clarean charism occurred with
some rapidity in its historical unfolding, and defragmentation will come
neither quickly nor easily. We hope, however, that the efforts document¬
ed in these pages and this collection itself might contribute, in its own
modest way, to ongoing collaboration and the forging of sister-broth¬
erhood among those who continue to embrace the Franciscan-Clarean
vision at the service of the Church to the world.
Edward Foley OFM Cap.
Duns Scotus Professor of Spirituality
Catholic Theological Union
The Feast of St. Clare
1C The Life of Saint Francis, Thomas of Celano, in FA:ED 1:171-
2C The Remembrance of the Desire of a Soul, Thomas of Celano, in
Adm The Admonitions, Francis of Assisi, in FA:ED 1:128-137.
DV Vatican II, Dei verbum, “Dogmatic Constitution on Divine
EG Francis, Evangelii gaudium , “The Joy of the Gospel,” 2013.
ER The Earlier Rule (1209/10-1221), in FA:ED 1:63-86.
FA:ED Francis of Assisi: Early Documents. Volume I: The Saint ; Volume
II: The Founder; Volume III: The Prophet. Eds. Regis Armstrong,
J. A. Wayne Heilman, William J. Short. Hyde Park, NY: New City
FI Franciscans International
GS Vatican II, Gaudium et spes , “Pastoral Constitution on the Church
in the Modern World,” 1965.
LF1 Little Flowers of Saint Francis, in FA:ED 111:566-658.
LtOrd Letter to the Entire Order, Francis of Assisi, in FA:ED 1:116-
LG Lumen gentium, Vatican II, “Dogmatic Constitution on the
LMj The Major Legend, Bonaventure, in FA:ED 11:525-649.
LR The Later Rule (1223), in FA:ED 1:99-106.
lLtF 1 st Letter to the Faithful, Francis of Assisi, in FA:ED 1:41-
2Ltf 2 nd Letter to the Faithful, Francis of Assisi, in FA:ED 1:45-
OFS Ordo Franciscanus Saecularis , or the Secular Franciscan
PerCar Vatican II, Perfectae caritatis , “Decree on the Up-To-Date
Renewal of Religious Life,” 1965.
Test The Testament (1226), in FA:ED 1:124-127.
VD Benedict XVI, Verbum doming “Post-Synodal Apostolic Ex¬
hortation on the Word of God in the Life and Mission of the
Documents from the Second Vatican Council are taken from Vatican
Council II: Constitutions , Decrees , Declarations: A Completely Revised
Translation in Inclusive Language. Ed. Austin Flannery. Northport, New
York—Dublin: Costello Publishing and Dominican Publications, 1995.
Scriptural translations are taken from the New Revised Standard Ver¬
Other Universal Documents of the Roman Catholic Church are tak¬
en from the English translations found on the Vatican website, http://
“Beyond Ite vos”
(4 November 2017)
I n 2013 Pope Francis (b. 1936) spoke to the ministers general of the
OFM, the OFM Capuchin, and the OFM Conventual and invited
them to “stay united—walk together and grow in common vocation
and mission.” The generals were moved by the words of the Pope, and
they encouraged friars around the world to take up this challenge. A
task force was created that provided resources and encouragement for a
series of events.
In the United States, the provincial ministers of these three Franciscan
branches decided that, in 2017, the Orders would commemorate the five
hundredth anniversary of the bull Ite vos of Pope Leo X, which in 1517
divided the Franciscan Order in two: Conventuals and Observants (the
Capuchins were founded roughly a decade later). The ministers chose
Chicago as the site of the celebration, and each branch named a repre¬
sentative to form a planning committee and shepherd the process for¬
The Beyond Ite vos event took place at Catholic Theological Union in
Chicago on November 4, 2017. It was a day of study, discussion, and fra¬
ternity. Over one hundred friars gathered to hear three of their brothers
6 I EDWARD FOLEY OFM CAP
speak on different aspects of the theme: Dominic Monti OFM addressed
the historical context of Ite vos ; Regis Armstrong OFM Cap. reflected on
our common Franciscan values; and Jude Winkler OFM Conv. shared
what we are already doing together around the world. After lunch those
present divided into groups and discussed how we might continue to
collaborate so that we can “grow in our common vocation and ministry.”
The sharing was lively and many ideas were raised on future possibilities.
Evaluations of the event were extremely positive and those present were
energized by the experience.
The Papal Bull “Ite vos”
A iming to settle long-standing disputes among Franciscan friars,
this “bull of union” issued by Pope Leo X was proclaimed in St.
Peters Basilica on May 30, 1517, to the vast assembly of friars
gathered for the Most General (generalissimum) Chapter of Pentecost,
1517. 1 Its provisions effectively divided the Order into two independent
congregations, the Friars Minor of the Regular Observance and the Fri¬
ars Minor Conventual; they would soon be joined by a third, the Friars
Servant of the Servants of God
For a perpetual memorial of the matter
Parable of the Vineyard Workers and its Application to the Friars Minor
Go into my vineyard , 2 says that Master of the household who had planted
a vineyard: [that is,] the Savior of the world and our Redeemer, Jesus
1 This translation is a revision by Dominic Monti of one provided by the inter-obediential com¬
mission “Franciscan Friars in Chapter” to mark the five hundredth anniversary of Ite vos, avail¬
able online in “Enlighten the Darkness of My Heart, Ite vos: An Inhabited Memory for Walk¬
ing Together Towards the Future” (2006). See https://www.ofmcap.org/images/docs/ite vos/
ite vos en.pdf . That translation is based on the critical edition of J. Meseguer Fernandez, “La
bula ‘Ite vos’ (29 de mayo 1517) y la reforma cisneriana,” Archivo Ibero-Americano 18 (1958):
257-361. The final text of the bull, as well as a preliminary draft, is on pages 332-353. The ac¬
companying notes by Dominic Monti are based on that study as well as the more detailed work
of Pacifico Sella, Leone X a la definitiva divisione dell'Ordine dei Minori, (OMin.): La Bolla ‘Ite vos'
(29 maggio 1517) (Grottaferrata: Frati Editori de Quarrachi, 2001).
2 Mt 20:4, from the parable of the vineyard workers.
8 | POPE LEOX
Christ. Even though he took care of everyone and managed everything
that he did, nevertheless, among his other seedlings, which, through his
Father he planted in the ground of the Church militant, there was one
that he looked after with such ardent love, that everywhere he would call
it his own. 3 He cared for this vineyard so carefully with diligent, indus¬
trious and faithful farm workers, whom he sent out almost constantly,
some early in the morning , others in the third hour , the sixth hour , the
ninth hour and even the eleventh hour. 4
This is the sacred religion of the Friars Minor, who, while yet in the green
leaves of fruitfulness, by means of apostolic men extended themselves
like branches from sea to sea , and from the river to the ends of the earth. 5
They irrigated the mountains and filled the earth with the wine of wis¬
dom and knowledge. This is the holy and immaculate religion in which
we may contemplate the presence of the Redeemer as through a spotless
mirror. Through it, one can admire the form of life of Christ and the
apostles. It sets before the eyes of the Christian people the standards of
the first foundations of the Church; and finally, it evokes what is divine,
angelic, most perfect, and in full conformity to Christ—so much so that
it can justly be called his own.
To cultivate this vineyard, the Master of the Household sent, early in the
morning, 6 from the rising of the sun , an Angel ascending from the east ,
with the sign of the living God , 7 the blessed Francis (d. 1226), who, along
with companions of admirable sanctity, laid the first foundations of this
vineyard. In the third hour , they were succeeded by religious men, led by
blessed Bonaventure; with the power and help of the Holy Trinity, they
repaired the walls of this vineyard already threatening to fall into ruin. 8
After them, as in the sixth hour , some friars went forth who were fervent
in spirit, who, comforted by the Holy Council of Vienne, as though sent
3 This statement of an especially close relationship of Christ to the Franciscan Order, continued
in the following paragraph, is reminiscent of the similar assertion by Nicholas III in his classic
constitution of 1279, Exiit qui seminat , 1-2 (FA:ED 111:739-764).
4 Mt 20:1-6.
5 Ps 72:8.
6 Mt 20:1.
7 Rev 7:2. Bonaventure applies this passage to St. Francis in his LMj, proL (FA:ED 11:527).
8 Reference to Bonaventures work stabilizing the constitutions of the Order at the Chapter of
THE PAPAL BULL "ITE VOS” | 9
by God, 9 brought back to their beginnings the rigors of discipline, then
almost completely worn out. Then, at the ninth hour —as when the Lord
died—a time when evil and scandalous vineyard workers had arisen, the
Lord stirred up the spirit of a youth, or rather a few friars, who under
the guidance and authority of the blessed Bernardine, the herald of the
Name of Jesus, and trusting in the support of the Council of Constance,
revived the Order, which had languished, indeed, was almost dead. 10
Then lately, in these last days, almost to the last hour, other men have ap¬
peared, zealots for the House of Israel. They cut down the sacred groves,
demolished the temples, * 11 and where sin abounded , with the Lords help,
they made sure that his grace abounded all the more , 12 introducing a
model of reform. 13
Dissension within the Order: the Pope Urged to Reach a Solution
However, just as among the workers of the vineyard in the Gospel par¬
able, when the ones who came later were treated as being equivalent
to the ones who arrived earlier, a great clamor arose, as kings, princes,
communities and peoples attest. News has reached us that serious con¬
tentions, quarrels and clashes are occurring among the friars of this re¬
ligion, over [alleged] superiority and higher degrees of perfection, inci¬
dents that have been increasing day by day throughout the world.
For this reason, we, who have been ardently devoted to the friars of this
Order and the Order as a whole since childhood, are now even more
ardently impelled, out of the ordinary concern of the duties of our office
and pastoral governance—which we bear, even though unworthy—to
silence this kind of quarrelling among the vineyard workers. Imitating
that steward in the Gospel, we desire to quell this grumbling, especially
considering the abundant fruits that we see flow continuously to the
whole church from the friars’ exemplary life and sublime doctrine. We
are also roused to take action by the continual supplications and prayers
9 Reference to those friars who attempted to live according to the norms of the reform consti¬
tution Exivi de paradiso, promulgated by Clement V at the Council of Vienne in 1312 (FA:ED
10 Referring to the work of the reforms attempted by Martin V following the Council of Con¬
stance at the general chapters of 1421 and 1430 and the spread of the Regular Observance.
11 Cf. 2 Kgs 18:4.
12 Rom 5:20.
13 Reference to several abortive attempts at reform of the entire Order advanced in the early
10 I POPE LEOX
we have received, up to this very moment, from Christian princes, espe¬
cially from our beloved sons in Christ, the Emperor-elect Maximilian; 14
and the illustrious kings, Francis, the most Christian (king) of France; 15
the Catholic Charles of Spain; 16 Henry VIII of England; 17 Manuel of Por¬
tugal and the Algarves; 18 Louis of Hungary and Bohemia; 19 Sigismund of
Poland; 20 Christian of Denmark, 21 as well as a number of other princes,
dukes, counts, peoples and communities. All of them beg us to settle
these divisions in the Order of Saint Francis.
Therefore, after designating a secret consistory, we have charged and en¬
joined some of our venerable brothers, Cardinals of the Holy Roman
Church, to investigate diligently the causes and origins of these quarrels
and divisions, and to explore thoroughly appropriate remedies in order
to settle such disputes. 22 After long examination and mature debate, they
made a very faithful and diligent report to us. After our further consid¬
eration, having weighed the issues they explored and examined, in order
to achieve harmony, and after having deliberated over them within our
consistory, we, together with them and the other Cardinals, and with
their unanimous opinion, have reached the following verdict:
14 Maximilian I, Holy Roman Emperor from 1493-1519, called “elect” because he never traveled
to Rome to be crowned officially by the Pope.
15 Francis I, King of France 1515-1547.
16 Charles I, King of Spain 1516-1556, later Holy Roman Emperor as Charles V. Leo X mentioned
on May 27,1517, that he had received letters from the kings of France and Spain in favor of the
Observants; see Meseguer Fernandez, “La bula ‘Ite vos, m 338.
17 Henry VIII, King of England 1509-1547, who had earlier written in favor of the Observants in
1514; see Meseguer Fernandez, “La bula ‘Ite vos, m 336.
18 Manuel I “The Fortunate,” King of Portugal 1495-1521.
19 Louis II, King of Hungary and Bohemia 1516-1526.
20 Sigismund I (Jagiellon), King of Poland 1506-1548.
21 Christian II, King of Denmark and Norway 1513-1523,
22 The four cardinals on this commission were Lorenzo Pucci, personal secretary to the Pope;
Bernardino de Carvajal, Cardinal Bishop of Ostia; Domenico Grimani, Cardinal Bishop of Al-
bano. Cardinal Protector of the Order; and Pietro AccoltL They were assisted by four Franciscan
“assessors” or consultants, who participated in drawing up the draft document: John Glapion, a
Flemish Observant and close confidant of future Emperor Charles V; Boniface of Ceva, advocate
of the “reformed under the ministers”; Alfonso Lozano, procurator general of the Cismontane
Observants; and Juan de Costa, procurator general of the Ultramontane Observants. None of
these friars belonged to the “unreformed” Conventual party. See footnote 27 below.
II. The Minister General
THE PAPAL BULL “ITE VOS ” | 11
First, we found that the main causes of such quarrels and divisions are
the multiplicity of superiors, 23 the perpetuity of some positions, and the
unreformed life of other friars. Therefore we desire and we order, accord¬
ing to what is contained in the Rule of blessed Francis, that there should
be one Minister General of the whole Order with full powers over all
individual friars of the same Order. Each and every friar is bound strictly
to obey him in all those matters that do not go against God, their soul,
or the Rule. 24
This Minister General shall exercise the office of generalship for a term
of six years. During this time, if it should appear to all of the provincial
ministers and custodians that the aforesaid Minister General is unable
to perform his service for the common good, these aforesaid friars, who
are responsible for the election of the Minister General, are required to
elect another, in the name of the Lord. 25 Having completed this term of
six years, he is automatically (ipso facto) released from the office of gen¬
eralship, and all are to consider the office as vacant. 26
The election of his successor is to be carried out exclusively by the Re¬
formed 27 provincial ministers and custodians, whether they be Ultra¬
montane or Cismontane, during the General Chapter of the same Order,
on the feast of Pentecost, in the place chosen by the Minister General
during the General Chapter immediately preceding. All the ministers
and custodians or their delegates, both Cismontane and Ultramontane,
are bound to attend the Chapter.
Moreover, so that the head does not appear different from the mem¬
bers [of the body], we desire and also command, that no friar shall be
23 Referring to the splintering of authority within the Order with the rise of so many virtually
autonomous reform groups over the preceding century.
2A LR 8.1,10.3.
25 LR 8.4.
26 To completely “clear the deck,” on May 29 Leo X nominated the existing Minister General,
Bernardino of Chieri, titular Bishop of Athens.
27 The Pope explains the term ‘Reformed’ (reformati) in Section V below. This general term had
come into use in the early 1500s to refer, not only to the Regular Observants, but other groups
in the Order attempting to follow the Rule of St. Francis more closely under reform statutes. The
Popes decision here to exclude the “unreformed” friars from the election of the general minister,
as well as his decision in Section IV below, was the “bombshell” that fell on the Conventual party
on May 30.
12 | POPE LEOX
elected Minister General if he is not leading a reformed life, and is not
considered such by the Reformed Community. In addition, no one shall
have [active] voice in the election of the Minister General, unless he is
reformed and is considered reformed by the Reformed Congregation. If
something to the contrary is attempted in the future, it shall be deemed
wholly null and void.
The election of the future Minister General should be celebrated at the
next feast of Pentecost in the Friary of Aracoeli in Rome, according to
our orders expressed in the letters sent in the form of a papal Brief: 28 we
order that all Reformed ministers and custodians, 29 as well as the vicars
and discreets of the friars of the Observance, or of “the Family,” 30 should
celebrate the aforesaid election.
And so that the election of the Minister General be carried out accord¬
ing to the above rule by the provincial ministers and the custodians, so
that it might be celebrated freely, according to the intention of the same
rule, and without any scruples [about who are valid electors], we hereby
ordain and establish that these [vicars of the Observance] are true min¬
isters, and are such by virtue of their election [by the Observant friars];
we declare also that their discreets are custodians.
With regard to other Reformed friars, we desire, in provinces where the
ministers are presently not reformed, or are not considered to be such,
and under whom there are some Reformed friaries, that two friars be
elected by the aforesaid Reformed friaries, according to the standard of
M Romanum pontificem (11 July 1516), BL, AM, MSS 16, 27-28, which had summoned a “most
general (generalissimum) chapter” to meet in Rome the following year. It was to include not only
the provincial ministers and representative custodians, but also the vicars of all of the reform
groups in the Order. This chapter had been summoned to meet on Pentecost (May 31), two days
after the final version of the bull was promulgated.
29 A relatively small number of provincial ministers and custodians who had accepted reform
30 This term refers to the largest of the reform groups, the friars of “the Regular Observance,”
who had been organized under Eugene IV in the Papal bull, Ut sacra (11 January 1446). This
bull grouped the Observant friars into two large “families,” Cismontane and Ultramontane. The
Cismontane family comprised Observant friars in Italy, Austria, Hungary, Poland, the Balkans,
and the Holy Land; the Ultramontane family comprised Observant friars in France, the Iberian
peninsula, Germany and the Low Countries, the British Isles, and Scandinavia. Observant friars
in each province elected their own vicar provincial who directed their life and activities largely
autonomously from the provincial minister; these vicar provincials gathered in two “family”
general chapters, one Cismontane, the other Ultramontane, which chose a Vicar General for
their region. Each family also drew up its own general constitutions. This bull made the Regular
Observance a virtually autonomous “order within the Order.”
THE PAPAL BULL "ITE VOS ” | 13
our other letters, written in the form of a Brief, 31 to represent the voice of
those unreformed ministers of the respective provinces.
We also grant at this time to the friars of the Congregation of Brother
Amadeo, 32 of the Clareni, 33 and of the Holy Gospel or of the Capuche, 34
in each province in which they have friaries, that in addition to the voic¬
es of their vicars, they shall have, just this once, two voices.
We define and declare this election of the Minister General, which shall
be carried out by the aforesaid friars, to be canonical according to the
Rule of the Friars Minor and the form transmitted by blessed Francis in
And in order to keep peace in this same Order as much as possible ac¬
cording to God, and to foster charity between the Cismontane and Ul¬
tramontane friars, we command that if the Minister General, as has been
said, were to be elected from among the Cismontane friars for a six-year
term, that in the six years that follow he should be elected from among
the Ultramontane friars. The friars shall preserve this manner of alter¬
nating elections in perpetuity.
III. The Commissary General
Nevertheless, since we see that this Order has expanded so marvelously
throughout Christendom, we wish that the benefit of pastoral care might
never be lacking. We therefore judge that when the Minister General is
elected from among the Cismontane Friars, he shall institute a Com¬
missary General in the Ultramontane zones, to be elected by the Ultra¬
montane friars themselves. The Minister General shall give him the task
of presiding over the Ultramontane friars, in accordance with what the
General Chapter deems most appropriate: but in such a way that the said
31 Again, in the brief Romanum pontificem (see footnote 28 above).
32 A reform congregation, founded in the late 1450s by a Portuguese nobleman, Amadeo Menez
de Silva (d. 1482). By the late 1400s they had about thirty houses.
33 Followers of the Spiritual leader Angelo Clareno, who had rebelled against church authority in
the early 1400s; later in the century they returned to obedience with the Church, living under the
authority of local bishops; they were received back into communion with the rest of the Order in
1473 but allowed to elect their own vicar general.
34 This group of hermitages was established in Spain by Juan de Puebla and recognized in 1489.
After Juans death, a disciple, Juan de Guadalupe, wished to lead a life of the “strictest obser¬
vance,” and gained exemption for his group in 1496. They were variously called “Discalced,"
“Friars of the Holy Gospel,” or “Friars of the Capuche.”
14 | POPE LEOX
Commissary is still subject to the Minister General, as are the [other]
superiors of the Order, obliged to obey in everything according to the
Rule. If, however, the Minister General were to be elected from among
the Ultramontane Friars, then he must institute a Cismontane Commis¬
sary General, in the same way as stated and set out above for the Ultra¬
The said Commissary General will exercise his office for three years only,
after which, the Minister General must institute a new Commissary, to
be elected as above, according to what seems fitting to the Ultramontane
and Cismontane friars.
[At times,] the Minister General may be absent from the headquarters
he has chosen for his six years [of service], and move to another area of
his choosing. But during the time of his absence, he shall leave a Com¬
missary in his place, with the advice and consent of the definitors of the
And should there be no Commissary General in the previously men¬
tioned areas over the said six years, the Minister General shall be re¬
quired, in the first three of those six years, to celebrate a General Chap¬
ter, gathering the delegates in that area, the area that he is from; and
similarly he must celebrate another General Chapter in the area that he
is not from, either in person or through his Commissary, to which all
the delegates of that area shall attend; or else, regarding this matter, do
whatever the Minister General and the General Chapter shall appropri¬
IV. The Provincial Ministers
In addition, with regard to the provincial ministers in those provinces
whose ministers are not yet reformed, or are not considered to be such,
we declare, decide and order that the vicars of the friars of the Obser¬
vance, or “the Family,” of those same provinces, are, henceforth and for¬
ever, the undoubted ministers of those same provinces. Henceforth, they
are to enjoy the title of minister. We make each and every friar fully
subject to them, and also, as said above, the houses and places where
they dwell, of those respective provinces. Moreover, to the Minister
General and other provincial ministers, we grant the same authority and
power previously enjoyed by the General and provincial vicars of the
THE PAPAL BULL “ITE VOS n | 15
[Observant] Family; and declare that this shall be considered such in
perpetuity. Therefore, we command the previously mentioned friars,
even those who observe the Rule of St. Francis purely and simply, to
be obedient in all things according to the Rule, to the said ministers, as
[their] true ministers, declared and established by us. 35
In addition, to ensure that the collapse of the Order does not happen
again, due to the irremovability of provincial ministers, we want and we
order that the aforesaid provincial ministers cannot continue in their of¬
fice beyond a three-year term, after which all friars shall consider them
released from office. However, during that three-year period, they may
be relieved of their office by their respective chapters, which shall be
celebrated according to the Rule and custom, in case they were found to
be less than suitable; the same is true for the custodians, on this matter.
No one can be elected provincial or custodian or have voice in their elec¬
tions, if he does not lead a reformed life, and is considered such by the
Reformed community of that Province, of which he would be put in
charge. Whatever might be attempted contrary to this shall, ipso facto ,
be considered null and void.
V. Who Are Understood by the Term “Reformed”
Also, since frequent mention is made earlier [in this decree] and in what
follows of Reformed [friars] and those who observe the Rule of blessed
Francis purely and simply, we wish and declare that under the name of
“Reformed,” and those who “observe the Rule of St. Francis purely and
simply,” are to be included all together and singly those included below,
namely: the Observants “of the Family” 36 and the “Reformed under the
ministers,” 37 including the friars of the Amadeans, of the Colettans, of
the Clareni, of the Holy Gospel or of the Capuche, or again those called
Discalced, 38 or of similar groups, no matter what name they go by, but
35 This was to prohibit groups of reform friars from claiming exemption from the authority of
the provincial minister.
36 See note 30 above.
37 These reformati sub ministris referred to friaries which were not part of the Regular Obser¬
vance but lived according to reform statutes while remaining under the authority of the pro¬
vincial ministers. The largest group of these were friars associated with the reform efforts of St.
Colette of Corbie who had gained recognition to live according to their own reformed statutes.
They also included similar smaller reform efforts in France and Germany, as well as the other
reform groups specifically named below who enjoyed their own vicars.
38 See notes 32-34 above.
16 | POPE LEOX
who observe that very Rule of Saint Francis in a pure and simple way.
Making of them one single body, we unite them to one another forever.
From now on, therefore, having abandoned all these different names,
they can and must be called the Friars Minor of St. Francis of the Regular
Observance , together or separately, 39 and they can and should refer to
themselves in this way. All of these groups together, as already men¬
tioned, should be subject in all respects, according to the Rule, to the
aforesaid Minister General, and the provincial ministers and custodians
in whose provinces they are residing.
VI. The Conventuals
The Conventuals then, who live according to privileges, should be sub¬
ject to and obey the same Ministers General and Provincial, in the ways
that will be established when our forthcoming letters are published. 40
VII. Ban on Name-Calling
1. So that every occasion of dissension, scandal, and partiality is com¬
pletely removed from the Order, we firmly order and command, under
penalty of latae sententiae excommunication—which will be incurred
ipso facto, and from which no one can be absolved, other than in articulo
mortis , except by us or by the Apostolic See—that no friar of the Order
of St. Francis may, with malice, ridicule or insult, call another friar of the
same Order: ‘Privileged,’ ‘Colettine,’ ‘of Clareno,’ ‘of the Gospel or of the
Capuche,’ ‘Pharisaic’, or any other name, even one that is newly-coined.
Nor should anyone who, in the future, using the previous divisions of
the Order or using our union and institution created by the grace of
the Holy Spirit, jeer, insult, or offend him in any way or be perceived
39 That is, they could be called either “Friars Minor” or “Friars of St. Francis (i.e., Franciscans) of
the Regular Observance.”
40 Leo X would issue these regulations some days later in the bull, Omnipotens Deus (12 June
1517), which effectively organized the Conventual friars as a separate Order. This brief sentence
dramatically cut back on the extensive prescriptions proposed in the draft version of Ite vos,
which would have placed the “unreformed” friars in each province under a commissary subject
to the (Observant) provincial minister, with the intent of introducing reform among them. Friars
who resisted would have been condemned to gradual extinction by forbidding “unreformed”
friaries to admit new vocations. In the final days before the promulgation of the bull, the Pope
retreated from these provisions in the draft, to leave the two groups of friars essentially indepen¬
dent of each other. He was urged to do so by a communication from the Doge of the Venetian
Republic as well as by many cardinals; however, this decision aggravated the monarchs of Spain
and Portugal, who would eventually achieve the suppression of the Conventuals in their lands
THE PAPAL BULL U ITE VOS ” | 17
as doing so. No friar then, whether cleric or lay, should mockingly or
maliciously call those friars and their supporters by such names; but all
the friars of this same Order must be called, among themselves and by
others, Friars Minor , as has already been said, or of St. Francis.
2. We furthermore decree that no Reformed friar can be sent by any
superior of the Order, not even the Minister General, to live in an unre¬
formed friary, or one not considered reformed. If, however, a Provincial
Chapter should deem it a lesser evil to send some friar to an unreformed
friary rather than keep him with the Reformed, in that case, the superi¬
ors may send one or more friars to an unreformed friary.
3. We command, under pain of latae sententiae excommunication, to
each and every Conventual living according to privileges, both superiors
and friars, that they shall not dare to receive the aforementioned Re¬
formed except as indicated; similarly (we ordain), under the same pen¬
alty, that the Reformed friars shall in no way depart from the obedience
of their ministers.
4. And so that no new groups [sectae] are introduced in that Order, with
the risk of causing new conflicts, we firmly impose and command that
in the future, no new group [secta] or reform shall be introduced in the
said Order; or carried out without the express consent of the Minister
General, or the Reformed Provincials in their respective provinces: so
that such reforms should still be subject in everything to the Minister
General and the Reformed Provincials, according to the Rule, as we ex¬
pressed above regarding the Reformed. 41
5. Therefore, we submit, and we incorporate in perpetuity, in their re¬
spective Provinces, all of the houses, places and hermitages, maintained
and owned by the friars of the Observance, or the Family, or those oth¬
erwise called Reformed, subject to ministers instituted and declared by
us. We want these same places held, possessed and governed in perpetu¬
ity by these same Ministers and their reformed successors. We take this
upon ourself and extinguish any dispute on these matters, brought be¬
fore any ordinary or delegated judge, or even before the Cardinals of the
Holy Roman Church, or the Cardinal Protector, or the auditors of our
41 This provision accounts for the harsh reaction of major superiors within the Regular Obser¬
vance to new reform movements, such as the Capuchins, in the 1520s and 30s.
18 | POPE LEOX
Sacred Palace, or the Commissaries Apostolic, both in the Roman Curia
and outside of it, both among the prelates and among the subjects, in any
state or instance, both possessory and petitionary or even in disposses¬
sion, under any pretense, even if previously they were subjected to the
obedience of the chapters of the Conventual friars of the said Order; and
we impose perpetual silence upon the parties.
6. We also overturn and cancel judgments and processes on that matter,
promoted by any judge, whatever the result, even if such disputes were
to involve the places of the friars, and goods received from any area,
or for any other reason. Nevertheless, we command, order, and impose
on these Conventual friars, or any judge and anyone else who does not
presume to make an attempt, to procure, judge or say, both in court and
out, anything against this our declaration, what we have instituted, inno¬
vated, united and incorporated, under penalty oilatae sententiae excom¬
munication, and the deprivation of the benefits obtained, as well as the
inability to obtain others in the future, even if there could, or should, be
a demand on our part in the future, even if those arguments were related
to the places of the friars and assets being received, or any other subject.
VIII. New Constitutions
In order to ensure, according to the needs of places and peoples, that
everything is wisely regulated in view of maintaining the reform, which,
through the grace of God, has been introduced throughout all of Chris¬
tendom in the same Order, we desire, order, and establish, in view of the
“Most (general!ssimum) General Chapter” to be celebrated in the near
future, 42 that you deputize some friars from among those most reliable,
scholars and experts from different regions. They should gather together
everything they consider appropriate for the maintenance of the reform
and true observance of the Rule, and the due execution of this our Con¬
stitution, to be approved by the entire Chapter or its majority, and finally
by us, armed with the backing of Apostolic confirmation.
IX. Final Clauses
To the current Auditor of the Apostolic Camera, to all archbishops, bish¬
ops and prelates and to any person registered in Apostolic dignity, we
command through Apostolic writings, through solemn publication of
42 That is, immediately following this decree.
THE PAPAL BULL “ITE VOS ” | 19
these our letters, and everything contained therein, that wherever and
whenever they deem appropriate, and whenever the Minister General
and the Reformed provincial ministers or any among them so requests;
that they be assisted with the garrison of an effective defense, and ensure
that everyone can peacefully make use of it and enjoy it, not allowing
them to be unduly harassed by anyone, or by any authority they might
possess. Those who are disobedient shall be suppressed by means of ec¬
clesiastical censures and other means of redress including, if necessary,
appealing to the secular arm.
This is notwithstanding any Apostolic letter and pardons, as well as those
of the Sacred Council of Constance, we specifically waive, notwithstand¬
ing any opposition to the above formalities and unusual clauses that are
granted, or are eventually granted, in the future to the friars, families,
congregations, denominations, or to some of them, both authors and
founders, Reformed or Conventual, or those otherwise called such, be¬
longing to this religion, even if they should have to make special, spe¬
cific, detailed, and literal mention of it.
Finally, since it would be difficult to convey these letters of ours to all the
places that one should, we want and we decree with Apostolic author¬
ity, that the copies, sealed by notary public and bearing the seal of an
ecclesiastical prelate, are deemed worthy of faith, as if the originals were
Therefore, it is unlawful for anyone to devalue, or rashly dare to oppose,
this page of our institution, definition, submission, declaration, union,
statute, subjection, incorporation, convocation, imposition, revocation,
termination, taxation, precept, command, derogation, will, and decree.
Should anyone then presume to attempt it, know that he shall incur the
wrath of Almighty God and the Blessed Apostles Peter and Paul.
Given at St. Peters in Rome, May 29th, in the year of Our Lords
Incarnation 1517, the fifth year of our pontificate.
This page is intentionally blank
The History and
Context of Ite vos
Dominic V. Monti OFM
I t is indeed an honor and pleasure for me to be with you today for this
occasion—the commemoration of the five hundredth anniversary of
the division of the evangelical brotherhood founded by Francis of As¬
sisi by the papal bull Ite vos. As you perhaps know, this event today is
our North American attempt to enter a larger process organized by an
inter-obediential committee established by our General Ministers in
response to Pope Francis’s challenge in 2013: “y ou [Franciscan friars]
should stay united—walk together and grow in common vocation and
mission” Calling themselves “Franciscan Friars in Chapter,” this group
provided resources for a series of events in the region of Umbria, since
extended to the rest of the world, one of which revolves around our topic
today: u Ite vos : An inhabited memory for walking together towards the
future” 43 The other speakers today will focus on the present and future
dimensions of our common Franciscan journey. It is my task to delve
into our communal memory—what happened 500 years ago?
For most of friars in the United States, this story is a largely buried and
forgotten memory—if indeed we ever really raised it to the surface of
our consciousness. If you mention the year 1517 to the average friar, it
does ring a bell—“Oh, that’s the year the Franciscan Order was divided
in two—Observants and Conventuals—by Pope Leo X” (d. 1521). How¬
ever, exactly what happened, and more importantly, the why and the how
of that division, remain obscure.
43 See their website, Franciscan Friars in Chapter, https://ofm.org/blog/franciscan-friars-chap-
22 I DOMINIC V. MONTI OFM
We first must remember the wider historical context. The year 1517 was
an eventful one in a troubled and complex period of Western history—
and Pope Leo Xs problem with the Franciscans was just one of the is¬
sues facing him that year. He issued Ite vos on May 29 in between two
important events. 44 Only two months earlier, on March 16, Pope Leo
had concluded the Fifth Lateran Council (1512-1517). This gathering
had been summoned five years earlier under his predecessor, Julius II (d.
1513), with the ostensible agenda of advancing a needed reformation of
the Church. 45 Giles of Viterbo (d. 1532), the general of the Augustinian
friars, had given an inspiring opening address: “Human beings should
be changed by religion, not religion by human beings”—a recognition
that the liberating but challenging Gospel message had been watered
down or even corrupted by the weight of Church structures and im¬
bedded practices. 46 However, that Council ended without achieving any
substantial results. Its decrees—although headed in the right direction—
were relatively modest, and as one modern historian has asserted, “were
stifled by the indifference of the Pope....and the ill will of a Curia unwill¬
ing to change its ways.” 47 However, we should place the decree Ite vos in
this context. One area on which the Council did move was the reform of
the religious orders and, as we will see, the papal commission who drew
up the decree viewed it as part of that broader effort. 48
The other major event was observed earlier this very week. On 31 Oc¬
tober 1517, the Eve of All Hallows, another Augustinian friar, Martin
Luther (d. 1546), published his famous 95 theses on the doctrine of
indulgences. Ultimately, this was a much more momentous event, as
Luthers act as a concerned professor of theology started a tumultuous
chain reaction that would lead to the permanent division of the Church
and indeed, all of Western Christian society.
44 See the helpful background article by Luigi Pellegrini, “Deepening Historical and Theological
Insights,” included in the online materials for the Ite vos commemoration, Franciscan Friars in
45 1 say “ostensible,” as the driving force behind Julius’s calling the Council was actually to head off
a schismatic Council that had been assembled by the King of France, Louis XII (d. 1515), at Pisa.
46 See John W. O’Malley, Giles of Viterbo on Church and Reform (Leiden: Brill, 1968), 139-178.
47 Comment by M. Venard, cited in Pellegrini, “Deepening Historical and Theological Insights,”
48 The assembled bishops did press their perennial grievances against the privileges of the men¬
dicant orders; the religious responded by promising reforms. See O’Malley.
THE HISTORY AND CONTEXT OF HE VOS | 23
In retrospect then, Ite vos seems a relatively small episode in this larger
history, an intramural decree that today is pretty much of interest only
to us Franciscan friars. Moreover, even we have been largely content to
summarize its major provisions in surveys of Franciscan history. I have
to confess that in thirty years of teaching such a course, I have been
guilty of doing precisely that. This general neglect on the part of histori¬
ans is evidenced by the fact that until the work of the inter-obediential
commission last year, Ite vos had never been translated into a modern
language! I am very grateful for their work, which I used as a basis to
prepare my own annotated translation from the modern critical edition
of the original Latin text, which serves as a foreword to this essay. 49
Furthermore, Franciscans also have to confess that when we did take
a deeper look at Ite vos, we tended to approach it from the perspective
of our respective teams. Even in the sixteenth century, Observant and
Conventual chroniclers provided very different interpretations of the
events, which continued right down into the twentieth century in the
treatments of Heribert Holzapfel (the OFM view) 50 and Raphael Huber
(the Conventual perspective). 51 We therefore must be very grateful to
the monumental study of Fr. Pacifico Sella, which came out in 2001. 52
His detail and objectivity provide an escape from these partisan views.
My task today is to examine the history and context of Ite vos. Its author,
Pope Leo, offers us a good deal of help here, as we have only to look at
the opening section of the bull itself to discover the broad historical con¬
text in which it stands. The title is a line from the parable in Matthews
Gospel where a vineyard owner goes in search of workers to gather his
harvest of grapes. 53 Here Leo chooses to use an agricultural image, as did
Nicholas III (d. 1280) in his classic exposition of the Franciscan Rule—
Exiit qui seminat (1279). 54 However, Leo will expand his Gospel text—
which portrays the vineyard owner going out at different times during
49 Meseguer Fernandez, “La bula ‘Ite vos,*” 257-361. This valuable study contains both the final
text of the bull as well as earlier drafts.
50 Heribert Holzapfel, The History of the Franciscan Order (1909), trans. Antonine Tibesar and
Gervase Brinkmann (Teutopolis, IL: St. Joseph Seminary, 1945).
51 Raphael Huber, A Documented History of the Franciscan Order (Milwaukee: Nowiny Publish¬
ing Apostolate, 1944).
52 Sella, Leone X.
53 Precisely Mt 20:4: “Ite et vos in vineam meam”—“You also go into my vineyard.” The final ver¬
sion of the bull left out the et (“also”).
54 “The sower went out to sow his seed” (Mt 13:3); see FA:ED 111:737-767.
24 | DOMINIC V. MONTI OFM
the day—into an extended allegory on the previous three hundred years
of Franciscan history.
I first should note that, like his predecessor, Pope Leo begins by assert¬
ing that the Franciscan movement is especially dear to Christ—as in a
special way it closely follows his footprints:
Even though he took care of everyone and managed every¬
thing that he did, nevertheless, among his other seedlings,
which, through his Father he planted in the ground of the
Church militant, there was one that he looked after with
such ardent love, that everywhere he would call it his own...
This is the sacred religion of the Friars Minor...that holy and
immaculate religion in which we may contemplate the pres¬
ence of the Redeemer as through a spotless mirror. Through
it, one can admire the form of life of Christ and the apostles.
It evokes what is divine, angelic, most perfect, and in full
conformity to Christ—so much so that it can justly be called
The bull then continues, developing the allegory of the workers in the
vineyard. As Leo describes the workers who came at dawn, he employs
the same apocalyptic imagery used by Bonaventure (d. 1274), in his Leg-
enda Major , alluding to a privileged role of Francis in the history of sal¬
To cultivate this vineyard, the Master of the Household sent,
early in the morning , 55 from the rising of the sun , an Angel
ascending from the east , with the sign of the living God, 56 the
blessed Francis, who, along with companions of admirable
sanctity, laid the first foundations of this vineyard.
However, as Leo continues the allegory, we quickly see that the work of
this founding generation apparently did not endure, for:
In the third hour, religious men, led by blessed Bonaven¬
ture, succeeded them; with the power and help of the Holy
55 Mt 20:1.
56 Rev 7:2. Bonaventure applies this passage to St. Francis in his LMj, prol. (FA:ED 11:527).
THE HISTORY AND CONTEXT OF HE VOS \ 25
Trinity, they repaired the walls of this vineyard already
threatening to fall into ruin.
“Already threatening to fall into ruin”? What had happened so quickly?
Ironically, we in 2017 might actually be in a better position to answer
this question than the authors of Ite vos. This is because fifty years ago
the Second Vatican Council (1962-65), in the decree Perfectae Caritatis ,
told religious men and women that the up-to-date renewal of their con¬
gregations depended on their first returning to “their primitive inspira¬
tion,...Therefore the spirit and aims of each founder should be faithfully
acknowledged and maintained.” 57 This mandate set in motion an unprec¬
edented historical retrieval of our early Franciscan sources, ultimately
yielding the massive three-volume Francis of Assisi: Early Documents. 58
In so doing, we discovered that the simple formula of going back to the
sources did not yield clear results and indeed involves some fundamen¬
tal tensions. As Irish Franciscan Cohn Garvey put it, “If the Francis¬
cans are to go back to their roots, the question arises immediately, ‘What
roots?’ Are they to try to recapture the lifestyle of Francis and his first
followers, from about 1209 to 1219?...or the lifestyle of the main body
of the Order, as it was developing under the ministers [in the 1220s]?” 59
The point I am making here is that the threatening to fall into ruin of
Francis’s brotherhood of which Ite vos speaks was not simply a matter of
the second generation of friars failing to live up to their Rule. Rather, it
involved a significant transformation of the way these friars conceived
of their Gospel way of life—a transformation in which the papacy itself
played a major part.
Five years ago, Michael Cusato wrote a fine essay on Francis and the
early Franciscan movement. He concluded:
The charism of Francis and his [first] brothers would con¬
tinue in the life of the Franciscan family. However, the un¬
derstanding of that charism, at least since the chapter of
1220, was no longer uniform among the friars. Already by
the general chapter of 1230, significant controversies were
beginning to arise over the precise understanding of the
57 PerCar, 2.
59 Colin Garvey, OFM, “Twisted Roots and Muddied Sources” The Cord 24 (1984): 68-83, here
26 | DOMINIC V. MONTI OFM
wording used in the definitive Rule and the intention of
Francis. Indeed, the seeds of the future controversies over
the observance of evangelical poverty were already sown in
this famous chapter. Franciscan history from this point for¬
ward will forever be marked by the unease and co-existence
of these two, quite different, forms of Franciscan life and
work: each challenging the other to remain faithful to the
founding charism or to be open to the needs of the Church
at any given time. For both aspects were, in some way, al¬
ready present in the person of Francis. 60
So just what was the founding charism of which Cusato speaks?—what
Francis called living “according to the pattern of the Holy Gospel?” 61
Those of you who have taken my course in Franciscan history will re¬
member that I isolate four main elements of that charism. Two are con¬
tained in their very name: Fratres Minores.
First, they were brothers. This identity was primary. The word “brother¬
hood” describes what they had created among themselves when they
left the social dynamics of Assisi—a group of men, from all walks of life,
each moved by the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, who accepted each
other for who they were, and bonded together in a network of relation¬
ships characterized by mutual love, care, and support.
Moreover, they were lesser ones—that brotherhood was created by the
fact that each of them had taken to heart the first Gospel text the broth¬
ers encountered when they were discerning their way of life: Jesus’s ad¬
vice to the rich young man to “sell everything you possess and give it to
the poor; then come and follow me.” 62 These brothers had each taken
the radical step of leaving all things. Consequently, as their Rule stat¬
ed—they lived “without anything of their own.” 63 They supported them¬
selves through their daily work, hiring themselves out as day laborers, or
60 Michael Cusato, OFM, “Francis and the Franciscan Movement (1181/82-1226)” The Cam¬
bridge Companion to Francis of Assisi, ed. Michael Robson (Cambridge: University Press, 2012),
61 Test 14 = FA:ED 1:125.
62 Mt 19:21; Lk 18:22. This story is first related in The Anonymous of Perugia 2.10-11. See Michael
Blastic, “Our Franciscan Evangelical Way of Life and Ministry in the Twenty-First Century,” The
Cord 59 (2009): 259-280, here 263,268,270-272.
63 ER 1.1-2 = FA:ED 1:63 64; LR 1.1 = FA:ED 1:100.
THE HISTORY AND CONTEXT OF HE VOS \ 27
begging when they could not find work. As payment, they accepted the
necessities of life—food, clothing, a place to live—but not money. As
little people in society having a precarious economic status, they also
desired to be without power, “simple and subject to all.” 64
Third, the vitality of that brotherhood depended on their desire to seek,
above everything else, “the Spirit of the Lord and its holy activity” 65 This
meant, not simply a commitment to the liturgical prayer of the larger
Church, but, more importantly, creating the inner space to be attentive
to the working of the Lord in their daily life—continually calling them
to deeper levels of conversion. The early brotherhood therefore had a
strong eremitical component—with the brothers withdrawing as the
Spirit moved them to remote places for prayer and contemplation.
Finally, their brotherhood had a mission: “sent into the whole world: that
you may bear witness to His voice in word and deed and bring everyone
to know that there is no one who is all-powerful except him.” 66 A key text
here for the brothers was Luke 10—the third Gospel text they encoun¬
tered when discerning their way of life: Jesus’s sending out of the seventy
disciples. As Michael Blastic observes: “This text, which is embodied in
the fourteenth chapter of the early Rule, assumes that the brothers are
itinerant, and that as they go about the world, they meet people where
they find them, engage them in honest conversation in the homes that
are opened up to them, eating and drinking what is set before them,
promoting peace, and in and through this encounter, pointing to the
nearness of the kingdom of God.” 67
These characteristics of the early fraternity’s life and mission describe a
group predominantly composed of penitent laymen. We really do not
see here any focus on formal ministry exercised on behalf of the institu¬
tional Church. However, this picture would rapidly change. After 1220,
more and more zealous young clerics were attracted to this vibrant evan¬
gelical movement, and they naturally wanted to employ their education
and pastoral skills as Franciscans. Their desires dovetailed with the vi¬
sion of prelates—including Popes Honorius III (d. 1227) and Gregory IX
64 Test 19 = FA:ED 1:125.
65 LR 10.8 = FA:ED 1:105.
66 LtOrd 9 = FA:ED 1:117.
67 Blastic, “Our Franciscan Evangelical Way,” 273. Blastic makes a point of distinguishing this ac¬
count in Luke 10 from the account in Luke 9, where Jesus sends out the twelve apostles. Luke 10
contains the greeting of peace and the freedom of “eating and drinking whatever they provide.”
28 | DOMINIC V. MONTI OFM
(d. 1241)—who wanted to enlist the Lesser Brothers in the Church’s pas¬
toral mission: especially the agenda set by the Fourth Lateran Council
to provide a dedicated corps of preachers and confessors for the People
of God. 68
We see at work here the second dynamic that Cusato identifies in Fran¬
ciscan history: many Lesser Brothers wanting to be open to the needs of
the Church at any given time. This desire to meet the Church’s pastoral
needs steadily accelerated during the 1220s and 1230s. In fact, by 1237,
Pope Gregory IX could define the very purpose of the Order as meeting
the pastoral reform agenda of the Fourth Lateran Council. 69 To accom¬
plish this mission, however, the Order’s way of life underwent a thorough
transformation. By 1240, the mainstream of the community had rapidly
become, as historian Duncan Nimmo puts it: “clerical, educated, urban
and conventual. Each characteristic spelt modification of the fraternity’s
primitive pattern.” 70 Clerical: the principal work of the Order was in¬
creasingly identified by both the hierarchy and the laity as doctrinal and
moral preaching and the administration of the sacrament of confession.
Educated: preparation for this ministry demanded that friars be trained
in theology, and so we quickly see the Order developing an organized
study system. Urban: Franciscans gradually abandoned the places on the
margins of society they frequented in the early years, instead moving
into towns to afford them the maximum public availability. Conventual:
this new style of life meant that the friars gave up their itinerant lifestyle,
instead settling down in fixed residences (convents) following a struc¬
tured daily routine typical of other religious orders.
Furthermore, the papacy played a key role in this transformation. The
first papal bulls of 1219 and 1220 encouraging bishops to permit the
Lesser Brothers into their dioceses focused on their preaching ministry;
in 1220, the papacy demanded the friars adopt a more structured way of
life in the bull Cum secundum consilium. Most important here was the
68 For these developments, summarized in the next several paragraphs, see the long-standard
treatment of John Moorman, A History of the Franciscan Order from its Origins to the Year 1517
(Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1968), 46-105, and the more recent treatment of Grado G. Merlo, In
the Name of St. Francis: History of the Friars Minor and Franciscanism until the Early Sixteenth
Century , trans. Raphael Bonnano (St. Bonaventure: Franciscan Institute, 2009), 80-163.
69 Quoniam abundavit (6 April 1237). The Pope refers to the “office of preaching, for which they
(the Franciscans) are assigned by virtue of their profession,” FA:ED 1:575-577.
70 Duncan Nimmo, Reform and Division in the Medieval Franciscan Order (1226-1538) (Rome:
Capuchin Historical Institute, 1987), 55.
THE HISTORY AND CONTEXT OF ITE VOS | 29
1230 decree Quo elongati , which offered a definitive interpretation of
their very Rule of life, stating the friars were not bound by Francis’s Tes¬
tament and creating a mechanism for them to accept the monetary alms
of lay benefactors, assuring them greater financial stability to exercise
In this re-focusing of the Lesser Brothers mission, what was the effect
on the other founding values? Brotherhood? Would exercising a pro¬
fessional ministry lead to clerical elitism? Minority? We have just men¬
tioned that larger houses and a professional ministry required a more
secure income. And the eremitical dimension? Would the demands of
maintaining a conventual routine and a formal ministry stifle the free
moving of the Spirit? Fr. David Floods verdict is harsh: his treatment
of the transformation of the Order in the 1220s and 30s is entitled “the
movement waylaid” and does not hesitate to use the word “betrayal.” 71
We see that, by the 1240s, some friars who remembered the early years
began telling stories about Francis and the primitive brotherhood, im¬
plicitly criticizing the way the Order was developing, in Cusatos terms
reasserting the charism. These stories occupy an important place in Vol¬
ume II of Francis of Assisi: Early Documents.
Ite vos singles out the contribution of Bonaventure during this third
hour. During his long tenure as general minister (1257-1274), he cer¬
tainly tried to maintain a balance between these two poles. On the one
hand, he enthusiastically accepted, indeed, strenuously defended, the
apostolic ministry of the friars in the Church; on the other, he demanded
fidelity to certain core Franciscan values—as those who have read his
scathing encyclical letters to the friars know! The general constitutions
of Narbonne were intended, as he said, to provide a hedge to assure that
the friars would remain “in bounds,” faithful to their vocation as poor
Gospel preachers. If their ministry in the Church were to be successful,
it would have to be founded on the authenticity of their life. Pope Nicho¬
las Ills constitution on the observance of the Rule, Exiit qui seminat
(1279), canonized Bonaventures teaching, defending evangelical pover¬
ty as an indispensable foundation for the Order. Following Quo elongati ,
Nicholas differentiated sharply between ownership and rights of use. He
71 David Flood, Francis of Assisi and the Franciscan Movement (Quezon City, Philippines: The
Franciscan Institute of Asia, 1989), 148-167.
30 | DOMINIC V. MONTI OFM
clarified that other people had to own the things the friars used and that
their rights to use them could not smack of luxury or excess. 72
We have seen then, what happened during the third hour of Franciscan
history. What about the sixth hour? After Bonaventures death, the pre¬
carious equilibrium he sought to achieve broke down. More and more
friars either could not or would not maintain the official standards of
Exiit qui seminat, especially with regard to poverty. This sparked a strong
reaction in the celebrated Spiritual movement, whose leaders attempted
to reassert the primitive values. As you can read in the sources printed in
Volume III of Francis of Assisi: Early Documents , the Spiritual represen¬
tatives boldly denounced the current state of the Order in apocalyptic
terms, some of them advocating the alternative of seceding from what
they viewed as a diseased body. Although most of the Orders leaders
did all they could to quash their movement, the Spirituals managed to
gain the ear of Pope Clement V (d. 1314) who found much of their case
against current conditions in the Order to be justified. The arguments
of both sides were aired before the Council of Vienne (1311-12), and
the resulting decree Exivi de paradiso (1312) established that the broth¬
ers were bound to certain strict or poor uses of things by virtue of their
Rule. 73 This was the dynamic explaining the sixth hour alluded to in the
prologue to Ite vos. 74
However, the drama for the Franciscans did not end there. Pope Clem¬
ent s successor, John XXII (d. 1334), found himself dealing with renegade
friars who refused to accept the legitimacy of any papal declarations.
The subsequent debate over the nature of Christ’s poverty ended up with
John denying the claim of Exiit qui seminat —and the entire Franciscan
tradition—that by renouncing all his possessions, Francis was perfectly
imitating the life of Christ and his first disciples. Furthermore, on a le¬
gal level, the Pope absolved the Holy See of its responsibility of holding
in trust the goods of the Franciscans, eliminating the office of the lay
72 Quo elongati (14 August 1279), FA:ED 3:737-764. For more detail on this period, see Moor¬
man, History of the Franciscan Order, 123-176; also Merlo, In the Name of St. Francis, 165-235.
73 Exivi de paradiso (6 May 1312), FA:ED 111:767-783.
74 “After them, as in the sixth hour, some friars went forth who were fervent in spirit, who, com¬
forted by the Holy Council of Vienne, as though sent by God, brought back to their beginnings
the rigors of discipline, then almost completely worn out." For this period, see Moorman, History
of the Franciscan Order, 177-204, 307-319; also Merlo, In the Name of St. Francis, 237-317.
THE HISTORY AND CONTEXT OF HE VOS | 31
apostolic syndic who accepted donations and managed the friars goods
in the name of the papacy. 75
This decision meant that friars now were often left to manage their
own property; they increasingly accepted landed estates, entering the
economic system of buying and selling things like any other religious
community. Many local fraternities received privileges and dispensa¬
tions legitimating these practices. Franciscans were also caught up in
the general social turmoil of the fourteenth century and the impact of
the Black Death. Like other religious orders at the time, we see a general
breakdown of discipline among the Franciscans: a tendency for friars to
go on for higher studies to gain perks afforded to a friar elite, to secure
their own private sources of income, and to obtain outside jobs to escape
the demands of community life. Thus, we find the mystic and reformer
Brigid of Sweden (d. 1373) sternly accusing the Franciscans, “saying the
devil had turned many of them ‘from humility to pride, from reasoned
poverty to greed, from true obedience to self-reliance.’” 76
And yet, that same fourteenth century witnessed small groups of friars
being inspired by stories about the early days of the Order in unofficial
sources like the popular “Deeds of Blessed Francis and His Compan¬
ions” and its Italian translation, the Fioretti. Such stories gained new life
when Bartholomew of Pisa (Bartholomew Rinonico, d. ca. 1401) incor¬
porated many of them into his massive compendium, The Conformity of
the Life of St. Francis with the Life of the Lord Jesus y officially approved in
1399 and thus circulated throughout the Order.
Paoluccio of Trinci (d. 1391), a humble friar in Foligno, Italy, had a de¬
sire to follow the Rule “to the letter” and received permission in 1368
to retire to the remote hermitage of Brugliano with a few companions.
Their way of life revived many of aspects of the founding charism that
had been sacrificed in the name of ministerial effectiveness: a focus on
contemplative prayer, equality among lay and ordained friars, and a gen¬
uinely poor life. The movement spread, and by the time of Paoluccio’s
death there were some twenty friaries in central Italy of what was being
75 For these documents, see FA:ED 111:783-790.
76 Cited in Gert Melville, The World of Medieval Monasticism (Collegeville, MN: Liturgical Press,
2016), 286. For this and the following paragraphs, see Moorman, History of the Franciscan Order,
320-389, 441-447; also Merlo, In the Name of St Francis , 319-373.
32 | DOMINIC V. MONTI OFM
called the Observant Reform. Just about the same time, we see this de¬
sire among friars to retreat to rural hermitages also emerging in Spain.
Reform currents were also springing up in France in the early 1390s.
In contrast to the Italian and Spanish reformers, however, the French
Observants did not have an eremitical focus; rather, their goal was to re¬
form an existing urban friary engaging in active ministry, following the
Rule according to the old official standards of the Order. Since the friars
of this “regular observance” were explicitly reacting against the “non-
observant” practices that dominated their provinces, they wanted to ob¬
tain some autonomy from provincial structures in order to achieve their
goals. In 1407, the Avignon Pope, Clement XII, heeded their desires and
gave the observant friaries in each of the French provinces the authority
to elect a vicar provincial to manage their affairs. However, when a few
years later France switched allegiance to the Pisa Pope, Alexander V (d.
1410), this privilege was revoked. 77 The French Observants refused to
accept this decision, however, and took their case to the theology fac¬
ulty of the University of Paris, which sided with them. Therefore, when
the general Council of Constance (1414-1418) was assembled as the su¬
preme authority in the Church in order to end the Great Western Schism
and work for the “reformation of the Church in head and in members,”
the Observants appealed directly to the Council.
In 1415, the Council granted their request, allowing the Observant hous¬
es in three of the French provinces to elect a vicar provincial, who would
be only nominally subject to the provincial minister. Furthermore, these
vicar provincials could then elect a vicar general to preside over their
movement with the same power as the minister general. Any individual
friar or house within the province would have the ability to accept re¬
form and pass from the authority of the provincial to that of the vicar. 78
This decree created the dynamic for the ninth hour of the allegory in Ite
vos. By the time the Council ended, Italian Observants—led by figures
such as Bernardine of Siena (d. 1444, singled out in Ite vos) and John
of Capistrano (d. 1456)—were leaving their hermitages and plunging
into active ministry. Returning to the older practice of popular itiner¬
ant preaching, they built up a solid following among the laity, spreading
77 Alexander himself was a Franciscan, and not sympathetic to the cause of what he viewed as
division in the Order.
78 Supplicationibuspersonarum (23 September 1415).
THE HISTORY AND CONTEXT OF HE VOS | 33
their vision of what Franciscan life should be. These leaders found an
ally in Pope Martin V (d. 1431), who had been elected by the Council of
Constance in 1417 to carry out an agenda of reform. The Pope wrote to
the general chapter of 1421 deploring laxity in the Order; when reform
measures failed to gain much traction, he issued a flurry of papal li¬
censes allowing the Observants to found new houses all over Italy. Then,
in 1428, he annulled John XXII s decree of 1322, saying that the papacy
would once again assume ownership of the Order s goods, placing the
management of the friars temporal affairs into the hands of a lay apos¬
tolic syndic. Martins efforts culminated at the chapter of 1430. There the
Observants agreed to give up their autonomy under their vicars if the
entire Order would adopt a set of reform constitutions. Largely drawn
up by John of Capistrano, they called for all friars to observe the Rule
and live in common, establishing a minimum standard of poverty that
entailed divesting themselves of income-producing property and pro¬
hibiting the use of money. 79
The story of moving from this ninth to the eleventh hour—a space of
almost nine decades—is a complicated and dreary one. 80 The first major
event was the failure of the constitutions of 1430 to gain general accep¬
tance; just months after the chapter, strong resistance from the grassroots
compelled the minister general to approach Pope Martin, who issued a
bull legitimizing the right of houses to own property and enjoy fixed
regular incomes. 81 This move doomed the hope for uniform standards
of Franciscan life. In response, the disgruntled Observants demanded
that the new Pope, Eugene IV (d. 1447), restore their provincial vicars.
Eugene still hoped that the Orders leadership would embrace a thor¬
oughgoing reform; it was no secret that at the chapter of 1443 he favored
the election of an Observant, Albert of Sarteano (d. 1450), as minister
general. When this attempt failed, he appointed two vicar generals for
the Observants, who were given wide powers to organize the Observant
friars in their regions. Three years later, with the bull Ut sacra? 2 he made
79 “Then, at the ninth hour .... the Lord stirred up the spirit of a youth, or rather a few friars, who
under the guidance and authority of the blessed Bernardine, the herald of the Name of Jesus, and
trusting in the support of the Council of Constance, revived the Order, which had languished,
indeed, was almost dead.”
80 See Moorman, History of the Franciscan Order, 447-516; also Merlo, In the Name of St. Francis,
81 Ad statum (23 August 1431).
82 Ut sacra (11 January 1446).
34 | DOMINIC V. MONTI OFM
this arrangement permanent. By this move, Eugene in effect organized
the Regular Observants as an autonomous congregation within the
larger Order. The Cismontane vicar provincials and their Ultramontane
counterparts met in their own general chapters to elect a vicar general
for themselves and draw up their own general constitutions. The min¬
ister general enjoyed only the right to confirm their elections; once in
office, the vicars general could operate independently from him. 83 This
large congregation created by the bull Ut sacra were the Observants “of
the Family” referred to in Ite vos.
Let us move now to the second section of the prologue of Ite vos. As Pope
Leo attests, after Pope Eugenes decision, a strident opposition developed
between the two parties.
Just as among the workers of the vineyard in the Gospel par¬
able, when the ones who came later were treated as being
equivalent to the ones who arrived earlier, a great clamor
arose, as kings, princes, communities and peoples attest.
News has reached us that serious contentions, quarrels and
clashes are occurring among the friars of this religion, over
[alleged] superiority and higher degrees of perfection, inci¬
dents that have been increasing day by day throughout the
By the latter decades of the fifteenth century, these quarrels and clashes
between the Conventuals and the upstart Observants became ever more
acrimonious, as the two branches competed for vocations and public
support. The Conventuals, who held the official leadership of the Order,
defended their position by emphasizing the bonds of fraternity. Francis
had commanded all the brothers to be obedient to them, the legitimate
minister general and provincial ministers, but the Observants, by de¬
manding their autonomy, were divisive. The Observants, for their part,
replied that they were only attempting to observe the Rule; since the
leaders of the Order were allowing friars to break it, thus allowing the
body to become corrupt, they demanded the freedom to live what they
viewed as the authentic Franciscan life under their own superiors.
83 Eugene had made a symbolic statement of his preference the preceding year, transferring the
friary of Aracoeli, since 1250 the Roman headquarters of the minister general, to the Cismon¬
tane vicar general.
THE HISTORY AND CONTEXT OF HE VOS | 35
There were also other important factors at work during this period re¬
flected in the text of Ite vos. First, not mentioned in the prologue but
evident in the various provisions, is that movements of reform among
Franciscans had multiplied. Besides the Observants “of the Family,” there
were a number of reformed friars living sub ministris (under the author¬
ity of the leaders of the Order). The largest of these was the so-called
Colettans. This group stemmed from the desire of St. Colette of Corbie
(d. 1447), a reforming leader among the Poor Clares, to have small com¬
munities of friars sympathetic with her ideals attached to her monaster¬
ies. In 1427 the minister general appointed Henry of Baume, who was
already an advisor to Colette, as his commissary to organize friars for
this purpose. Living by distinctive statutes, this movement spread well
beyond the Colletine monasteries and by the early 1500s were almost as
numerous in France as the Regular Observants. Elsewhere in France and
Germany there were also a number of friaries who had agreed to follow
the Martinian constitutions of 1430.
Then, there were three smaller reform groups under the minister gen¬
eral, which enjoyed a certain amount of autonomy under their own vic¬
ars. The first, the Amadeans, was a reform congregation founded near
Milan the late 1460s by a Portuguese nobleman, Amadeo Menez de Silva
(d. 1482); by the late 1400s they had about thirty houses. The second
was the Clareni, the progeny of the Spiritual leader Angelo Clareno (d.
1337), who had rebelled against church authority in the early 1300s.
Later in the century, however, they had been reconciled to the Church,
living under the authority of local bishops. In 1473, they were received
back into communion with the rest of the Order but allowed to elect
their own vicar general. The third group—variously called the Discalced,
the Friars of the Holy Gospel, or the Friars of the Capuche—owed their
origins to hermitages established in Spain by Juan de Puebla in the late
1400s. After Juans death, a disciple, Juan de Guadalupe, wishing to lead
a life of the strictest observance, gained exemption for the group in 1496.
Thus, in 1500 the Order of Friars Minor was an organizational night¬
mare, with a proliferation of governing documents and a splintered au¬
A second factor evident from the text of Ite vos is the prominent role that
lay rulers were increasingly playing in this Franciscan controversy. Pope
Leo states that kings, princes, and communes have been besieging him
36 | DOMINIC V. MONTI OFM
to take action, citing a veritable litany of the crowned heads of Europe. 84
Largely, these rulers favored the Observants or other groups of reformed
friars, but regardless, were of one accord that something had to be done.
The vigor and authenticity of the reformed friars had captured the popu¬
lar imagination. Especially important here was the return of the Regu¬
lar Observants to popular itinerant preaching, which brought them into
close relationship with local governments and even some monarchs. 85 In
Italy, a key factor was the Observants strong promotion of the monti di
pieta , an early form of credit union, where the working poor could take
out loans. The most prominent of the civil governments favoring the
Observants was Spain. There the Observant friar Francisco Ximenes de
Cisneros (d. 1517) was named the confessor of Queen Isabella in 1492.
Three years later, she nominated him as Archbishop of Toledo and in¬
spector of all religious orders in the country. With the clout of the gov¬
ernment behind him, Cisneros applied tremendous pressure on Con¬
ventual friaries in Spain to join the Observants or face civil penalties or
The papacy too recognized the growing popularity of the Observants
among the laity. In the wake of the fall of Constantinople in 1453, Cal-
listus III (d. 1458) specifically commissioned the Observants as apostolic
preachers to go about Central and Eastern Europe to raise crusading
armies in response to the Turkish threat to the Balkans and Hungary. 86
Likewise, Sixtus IV (d. 1484), who had been minister general of the Or¬
der and therefore naturally sympathetic to the Conventual party, none¬
theless turned to the Observants in 1480 to recruit troops against new
Turkish advances. This made it natural that Leo X himself, in the very
years leading up to Ite vos, would also turn to Observant preachers for
another great task: raising funds for the fabric of St. Peter, to finance
the construction of the vast new basilica begun by Julius II (d. 1513).
This year, as we recall Luthers protest against the Dominican preach¬
er of indulgences, John Tetzel (d. 1519), we should realize that other
orders were comparative small fry when compared with the vast sums
raked in by the Observants. During the year 1514-15 the Observant
84 “...especially from our beloved sons in Christ, the Emperor-elect Maximilian; and the illustri¬
ous kings, Francis, the most Christian (king) of France; the Catholic Charles of Spain; Henry
VIII of England; Manuel of Portugal and the Algarves; Louis of Hungary and Bohemia; Sigis-
mund of Poland; Christian of Denmark...”
85 On these developments, see Sella, Leone X, 203-221.
86 One immediately thinks of the key role of John of Capistrano in this regard.
THE HISTORY AND CONTEXT OF HE VOS | 37
Franciscans raised 8,150 ducats, in comparison to 4,793 from all other
sources; in 1515-16 the Observants brought in 11,624 compared to 8,723
from other sources. And, during the year 1516-17, precisely when the
Papal commission was considering the fate of the Franciscans, the Ob¬
servants mounted an all-out effort, pulling in some 26,041 ducats, in
comparison to 8,740 from all other sources (of which 1200 came from
Conventual Franciscans). 87 Not only were monarchs sympathetic to the
Observants, the papal curia realized they were a major funding source
for its operations.
Pope Leo’s little allegory of Franciscan history finally brings us to the im¬
mediate background for Ite vos: “lately, in these last days, almost to the
last hour, other men have appeared, zealots for the house of Israel.” 88 This
mainly refers to the reforming efforts of Giles Delfini, minister general
from 1500 to 1506. Under his leadership, the chapter of 1500 had draft¬
ed a set of statutes designed to enforce higher standards of observance.
Giles devoted his term as general traveling around the provinces, trying
to enforce these regulations, but also attempting to curb the autonomy of
the Observants in the process. His model was the reformati sub ministris ,
especially the Colettan friars in France. 89 But despite his valiant efforts,
Giles failed in his attempts to bring reform throughout the Order; he fi¬
nally urged Pope Julius II to call a most general ( generalissimum ) chapter
in 1506, which would bring together the leaders of all the major parties
in the Order. This chapter ended in a stalemate, but two things were be¬
coming evident. First, Giles’s efforts showed that the fundamental divide
in the Order was no longer really between Conventuals and Observants,
but between reformed friars—both Observants of the Family and the
various groups of reformed Conventuals under the ministers—and a
block of Conventuals opposed to reform efforts. Second, it made clear
that the Franciscans were incapable of resolving their problems: a solu¬
tion could only come from the Holy See.
Julius II did not provide much leadership in this regard. Finally, how¬
ever, with the Fifth Lateran Council urging the Pope to take action and
appeals that grew ever more insistent from rulers, Leo X finally decided
87 See Sella, Leone X, 279-286.
88 This final decade and a half leading up to the chapter of 1517 is covered by Moorman, History
of the Franciscan Order, 569-582; also Merlo, In the Name of St. Francis , 409-418.
89 Pellegrini provides a good description of Giles’s efforts, 29-30.
38 | DOMINIC V. MONTI OFM
to move on the matter. 90 Early in 1516, he set up a commission to “in¬
vestigate diligently the causes and origins of the quarrels and divisions”
in the Order of Friars Minor and to “explore thoroughly appropriate
remedies to settle these disputes” 91 This commission consisted of four
cardinals, including Domenico Grimani, Cardinal Bishop of Albano (d.
1523), the Cardinal Protector. 92 Four friar consultors were also named:
John Glapion, a Flemish Observant and close confidant of the future
Emperor Charles V (d. 1558); Boniface of Ceva, brilliant advocate of
the reformed under the ministers; Alfonso Lozano, procurator general
in the Roman Curia for the Cismontane Observants; and Juan de Costa,
procurator general of the Ultramontane Observants. It should be noted
that none of these friars belonged to the unreformed Conventual party.
The first recommendation of the commission was that the Pope should
summon another capitulum generalissimum (“most general chapter”) in
Rome at Pentecost, 1517, bringing together not only the usual provincial
ministers and representative custodian from each province, but also the
leaders of all the various reform groups within the Order. Leo accord¬
ingly issued a decree, Romanum potitificem , on 11 July 1516, summon¬
ing all parties to Rome the following year.
Meanwhile, the commission continued working on what they viewed
as the appropriate remedies for resolving the disputes in the Francis¬
can Order. These clearly took the side of the reformers in the Order. We
have already seen that the prologue of the draft document, explaining
the historical context for the bull, reflected the reform agenda. And the
various provisions that the commission proposed simply restated earlier
reform proposals, especially those advanced to Giles Delfini in 1503-
1505 by the vicar of the Ultramontane Observants, Marcial Boulier. 93
The papal commission apparently finished its draft document by Christ¬
mas of 1516. We know that Giles of Viterbo, prior general of the Augus-
tinian friars, was aware of its content in January 1517, and that in April
the Portuguese ambassador managed to obtain a copy, which he sent
90 Besides the detailed study of Sella, these developments leading up to Ite vos are covered by
Moorman, History of the Franciscan Order, 582-85; also Merlo, In the Name of St. Francis, 418-
91 Ite vos, prologue 2.
92 The others were Lorenzo Pucci, personal secretary to the Pope; Bernardino de Carvajal, Car¬
dinal Bishop of Ostia; and Pietro Accolti.
93 Sella, Leone X, 288.
THE HISTORY AND CONTEXT OF HE VOS | 39
to King Manuel (d. 1521) to give him a heads-up on what was about to
However, in the final weeks before the Chapter was due to open, a body
of resistance to the draft began to emerge among some Cardinals in the
Roman Curia, while letters continued to arrive from various govern¬
ments until literally the last moment. These late developments would
affect the final version of the bull.
Let us now turn to the solution to the Franciscan question that Pope Leo
offered with Ite vos. Toward the end of May, a crowd of several thousand
friars massed in Rome to be present for the excitement of the chapter—
Pentecost was to fall on May 31. On May 25, the Pope appointed a com¬
mission of seven cardinals to manage the discussions with the chapter
delegates on behalf of the Holy See. The following day, all the delegates
gathered at St. Peter s basilica in consistory with most of the cardinals in
the Popes presence. The interventions that day showed that neither side
had moved beyond the impasse of the last most general chapter eleven
years earlier. However, the day was significant, for that morning, the
Pope had received in audience the ambassador of the Doge of Venice,
urging him not to interfere with the current state of the two entrenched
groups of friars, but to simply separate them into two independent or¬
ders. On May 27, a hint of what was going to happen emerged when the
Pope and his steering commission heard the two groups separately. The
minister general, Bernardino Prati, stated that the Conventuals were not
prepared to give up their privileges; in response, the Pope gathered the
Observants and asked their Vicar Generals if they would be willing to
work with the reformed Conventual faction. They replied yes. Later, the
reformed Conventuals were called in; they too signaled their willingness
to cooperate in reaching a solution.
When all the delegates were gathered again on May 28 and 29, it was
clear that the position of the main body of the Conventuals was firm;
they wished to maintain their privileges. In response, the Observants
said they were not willing to accept another unreformed minister gen¬
eral. Meanwhile, the Pope made his final decision. On May 29 he cleared
the deck for the election of a new minister general by kicking the incum¬
bent, Bernadino Prati, “upstairs,” nominating him as titular bishop of
94 Sella, Leone X, 287-294.
40 | DOMINIC V. MONTI OFM
Athens. He also signed the definitive version of Ite vos, which reflected
the discussions that had taken place over the previous days.
On May 30, the Vigil of Pentecost, the Popes decision was announced
to the conclave by one of the cardinals: that the body of reformed friars
would henceforth be regarded as the Order of Friars Minor, and that
only their representatives would have the right to elect the new minister
general. This startling announcement called an uproar in the basilica.
With it, the most general chapter effectively came to an end, as the un¬
reformed Conventual friars, hearing they would be excluded from the
election, withdrew from the assembly and gathered at their church, the
basilica of the Twelve Apostles, where they proceeded to elect their own
general, Antonio Marcello. Meanwhile, Cristoforo Numai, Vicar Gen¬
eral of the Cismontane Observants, proceeded with the solemn reading
of Ite vos in the presence of the Pope.
Exactly what was stated in the bull? Here you should refer to the transla¬
tion of Ite vos previously included in this volume. This translation, fol¬
lowing the critical edition of Meseguer Fernandez, has nine sections or
titles. We have already examined the first section, the preamble, which
itself is divided into two parts. As we have detailed, the first lays out the
broad historical developments and the second, the immediate context,
the current disputes going on within the Order.
The second section treats the immediate matter at hand, that is, the stip¬
ulations for the election of the minister general. It begins by restating
the ideal contained in the Rule, which the Conventuals had always em¬
phasized: “that there should be one Minister General of the whole Order
with full powers over all individual friars of the same Order. Each and
every friar is bound strictly to obey him in all those matters that do not
go against God, their soul, or the Rule.” 95 It would seem at first there is
nothing new. However, as the section continues, we see a dramatic rever¬
sal of past practice: from now on, the election of the minister general is
entrusted only to the reformed provincial ministers and custodians. To
accomplish this, the provincial vicars of the Observant friars were now
recognized as the true ministers of their provinces. Further, the Pope
specified that “no friar shall be elected if he is not leading a reformed
95 Ite vos, 2.1.
96 Ite vos, 2.4.
THE HISTORY AND CONTEXT OF HE VOS | 41
The next day being the feast of Pentecost, no session was held, but on
the following day, June 1, the Observant delegates and the representa¬
tives of the various reformed Conventual groups gathered at the church
of Aracoeli; the bull was again read aloud. The cardinal presidents then
certified the eligible capitular delegates according to the provisions of
the bull. These then proceeded to elect Cristoforo Numai (d. 1528), vicar
general of the Cismontane Observants, as minister general of the whole
Order of Friars Minor. The outgoing general, Anthony Marcello, was or¬
dered to turn over the seal of the Order to Numai. In addition, this new
provision on the minister general, reacting against the prevailing ten¬
dency to keep re-electing the same friars to office, 97 strictly limited the
general to a six-year term. Furthermore, to assure geographical balance,
the office had to alternate between a Cismontane and an Ultramontane
The next provision (section 3) of Ite vos seems strange to us, as it actually
would work against maintaining a unified authority in the newly recon¬
stituted Order. However, the friars on the papal commission who drew
up the draft document accepted the status quo in the Order at the time—
that is, Pope Eugenes division of the Observants into Cismontane and
Ultramontane families. Reform efforts in Spain, France, and Germany
had quite different origins than in Italy and thus had developed their
own regional customs. Over the previous seventy years, these differences
were accentuated by the fact that Ultramontane and Cismontane friars
held their own general chapters and developed their own legislation.
Therefore, to ensure respect for local conditions, and given the difficulty
of communications at the time, Ite vos created a new office, that of com¬
missary general. If, for example, the minister general were a Cismontane
friar, he was asked to delegate his authority in the Ultramontane zone
to a commissary general, elected in a general chapter of the friars in his
own zone. In effect, this meant the Order would have two more-or-less
equal heads, one of whom enjoyed the title of minister general for six
years, which would then switch to his counterpart.
Section 4 deals with the provincial ministers. It spells out what had
already been stated in section 2, that is, in those provinces where the
provincial minister was not a reformed Conventual (that is, the vast
97 For example, Francesco Nanni, called “Samson," held the office of minister general from 1475-
42 | DOMINIC V. MONTI OFM
majority of provinces), “the vicars of the friars of the Observance.... are
henceforth and forever the undoubted ministers of those provinces.” It
also emphasizes that every friar is to be fully subject to them, including
those who had previously been members of a distinct reform group. In
addition, this provision limited the provincial minister to a term of three
Section 5 finally determines exactly which friars are to be included under
the term “Reformed,” or “those who observe the Rule of blessed Francis
purely and simply.” These were both the Observants of the Family and
the Reformed under the ministers, including the distinct groups of the
Amadeans, the Colettans, the Clareni, and the Discalced. It is here that
the definitive version of the bull begins to differ from the draft document
considerably. The draft had specified that to be considered reformed a
friary must renounce property and fixed incomes in a manner estab¬
lished by law. The definitive version is content to mention the names
of the various groups that will form the reconstituted reformed Order.
From now on, they are to abandon these previous designations, and be
all known in the future as “Friars Minor of St. Francis of the Regular
Observance, together or separately”—that is, simply “Friars Minor,” or
“Friars of St. Francis (i.e., Franciscans) of the Regular Observance.”
Meseguer Fernandez s edition of Ite vos then continues with a Section 6,
which consists only of the following sentence: “The Conventuals then,
who live according to privileges, should be subject to and obey the same
Ministers General and Provincial, in the ways that will be established
when our forthcoming letters are published.” Why is this one sentence
numbered as a distinct section? It could logically have been tacked on to
the preceding one which had spelled out who were the reformed friars
of the newly reconstituted Order. The reason Meseguer Fernandez cre¬
ated a separate section was to indicate that this one sentence is all that
remains of a series of provisions in the draft of Ite vos.
These paragraphs—which Pope Leo eliminated in the final document—
would have consigned the unreformed Conventuals to gradual extinc¬
tion. The papal commission that drew up the document, following an
agenda of many reformers at the time, envisioned placing all the fri¬
aries in each province who were not reformed—that is, who had not
renounced the ownership of property and fixed incomes—under the
care of a commissary provincial appointed by the Observant provincial
THE HISTORY AND CONTEXT OF HE VOS | 43
minister. This commissary was to work toward getting these houses to
accept reform; if they failed to do so in good time, they could not accept
new vocations or ordain more men to the priesthood. 98 All that remained
of these harsh provisions is the simple statement that the Conventual fri¬
ars will be subject to the (Observant) minister general and provincials in
ways that will be determined in a forthcoming document.
That document would come two weeks later in the bull Omnipotens Deus
(12 June 1517). With this bull, Leo effectively organized the Conventual
friars who wished to keep their privileges and possessions as a separate
congregation. They were permitted to elect their own master general and
their own provincial masters. These were to be subject to the parallel
Observant leadership in the same way as the Observant vicars of the
Family had previously been subject to the Conventual general and pro¬
vincial superiors—that is, simply to seek confirmation of their election.
Otherwise, the two groups were to work totally independently of each
other. The minister general “of the whole Order” was not to interfere in
the Conventuals’ internal operations; he or an Observant minister pro¬
vincial could only make a fraternal visit to a Conventual house if he hap¬
pened to be in the area. However, in all ceremonies the Observants were
to take precedence over the Conventuals.
Returning to Ite vos, Section 7, a ban against name-calling, attempted
to assure harmony among the friars. It forbade them, under penalty of
excommunication, to refer to each other by offensive terms, even by the
98 This solution of the commission examining the Franciscans actually follows closely the pro¬
posal of two Venetian Camaldolese monks, Paolo Giustiniani and Pietro Quirini, who in 1513
had submitted a far-reaching reform agenda to Leo X for consideration at the Fifth Lateran
Council: “Holy Father, take special care to lead every religious order to the perfect observance
of its rule and to its ancient and holy manner of living...There are some [religious] who serve
under the banner of the most correct and tested rules and usages, and who, because they en¬
deavor to keep these rules and usages, are called observant,’ while there are others who, beyond
the bare fact that they live together, observe none of their holy rules and customs, or else they
omit the more important ones; these have the name conventual.’ Since you, however, will toler¬
ate neither the division of individual rules nor the abuse and depravation involved in a second,
deformed way of living, you will carefully endeavor to bring those who are called conventual to
the more exact observance of their rule, so that the name itself is abolished. You will accomplish
this more easily if you declare that no one may take vows in conventual monasteries; thus, all
congregations of religious men and women will deservedly be called observant. Indeed, it would
be pointless to glory or boast in the name observant,’ unless the name should be equal to the
facts, through a truly exact and perfect observance of the holy rule and customs." Libellus to Pope
Leo X, ed. Stephen M. Beall, available at https://www.academia.edu/3614630/Paolo Giustini¬
ani and Pietro Quirini Libellus to Pope Leo X English Translation . 90-93.
44 | DOMINIC V. MONTI OFM
titles of their former group. It went on to say that no reformed friar in
the newly constituted Order could leave the obedience of his minister
to dwell in an unreformed house. On the other hand, as specified in the
follow-up bull Omnipotens Deus , an individual Conventual friar could
always transfer to the Observants. However, no Conventual house could
be transferred to the Observance by any secular power; this could occur
only by a two-thirds vote of the friars themselves. Also, section 7 strictly
forbade any friar to introduce a new sect or reform in the Order without
the express consent of the minister general or the provincial minister
A brief Section 8 mandated that new general constitutions be drawn up
to spell out the way of life of the newly unified Order. Then, there was a
final section 9, containing legal clauses concerning the publication and
enforcement of the document.
What were the consequences of the Pope’s decision? On the surface, Ite
vos represented the vindication and the triumph, institutionally speak¬
ing, of the Observants’ position. At the time, they were filled with jubi¬
lation at Leo’s decision. Their minister general was the titular head of a
body of reformed Friars Minor, possessing the seal of the whole Order,
a judgment which Leo confirmed in a follow-up bull, Licet alias on 6
Given that the very brothers of the Observance and Reform
have always been true and certain brothers of the Order of
blessed Francis and his Rule...without any interruption or
division, from the time of the publication of the Rule on the
part of blessed Francis until today. . . we decree and com¬
mand that from every point of view they should be held and
considered as such and must be called such."
The Conventuals, in contrast, were bitterly disappointed. However, as
the dust settled, it became increasingly clear that Leo had given neither
group all it wanted. In that sense, Ite vos struck a via media. Going into
the most general chapter, once they saw the way the wind was blowing,
the Conventuals realized that their best-case scenario would be a divi¬
sion of the Order into two independent congregations under two minis¬
ters general. They failed to attain this in 1517. Leo’s decision, expressed
99 Cited in Merlo, In the Name of St. Francis, 427.
THE HISTORY AND CONTEXT OF HE VOS | 45
in Ite vos and Omnipotens Deus , still maintained—at least on paper—the
ideal of one Order of Friars Minor; its provisions consider the Conven¬
tuals in some way as subservient to the Observants. On the other hand,
the Observants wanted a united reformed Order, which would entail
condemning the unreformed Conventuals to gradual extinction, as had
been proposed in the draft of Ite vos. This they did not achieve.
In some ways, Leo’s split decision reflected his own personality. He was
a good-natured man who shrank from conflict and desired peace at all
costs. He was also very shrewd. Ludwig von Pastor, in his famous History
of the Popes , writes:
It took him indeed weeks, and even months, before he
could make up his mind...but more revolting than his in¬
decision are the want of straightforwardness, nay the false¬
ness, the double-dealing, by which the policy of Leo X, as a
true statesman of the Renaissance, was almost actuated. The
plan of “steering by two compasses” became second nature
to him. Quite unabashed, he acted on the principle that for
the sake of being ready for every event, the conclusion of a
treaty with one party need offer no obstacle to the conclu¬
sion of another in an opposite sense with his opponent... 100
What was the ultimate significance of Ite vos 7 . In almost every way, its
“failure was obvious from the start.” 101 It was envisioned as a bull of
union, but it never achieved that goal. Leos two bulls of 1517 envisioned
that the Conventuals would be largely autonomous, but in some way still
part of the larger Order. Their superiors—called “masters”—would have
to be confirmed by the ministers general and provincial. In fact, this pro¬
vision would never be enforced, and the Popes who succeeded Leo soon
reverted to the older terminology, referring to the “minister general” of
the Conventual Franciscans. So the Conventuals and Observants be¬
came totally independent of each other, two separate and equal Orders.
More importantly, Leo’s goal of uniting all the various reformed groups
into “one single body,” 102 renouncing all distinctive titles and peculiarities
100 Ludwig Pastor, The History of the Popes from the Close of the Middle Ages, ed. by Ralph Kerr,
vol. 8, 3rd ed. (London: B. Herder, 1950), 84-85.
101 Pellegrini, “Deepening Historical and Theological Insights,” 34.
102 Ite vos , 5.
46 | DOMINIC V. MONTI OFM
in dress, was a failure from the start. The problem was that the Regular
Observance which dominated the reformed Order did not satisfy those
friars who sought a life of stricter observance. In their desire to meet
the needs of the Church in the 1400s (going back to Cusatos dialectic),
the Observants had become domesticated. Other than their renouncing
the ownership of property and the use of money, there was not a sig¬
nificant difference between the Regular Observance and the Conventual
position. Right from the start, Juan Pascual (d. 1554) who led the small
Spanish congregation of Discalced Friars, refused to accept the union
and petitioned to keep their former position as a distinctive observance
under the Conventual general. The Amadeans also continued in their
old position as an autonomous unit under the Conventuals.
More significantly, friars within the Regular Observance continued to
seek new ways of reasserting the charism, much like Paoluccio of Trinci
had done a century and a half earlier. However, as we have seen, in its at¬
tempt to establish a unified observance, Ite vos contained a strong prohi¬
bition against such new “sects” arising in the Order. 103 This explains why
Matthew of Bascio (d. 1552) and the Tenaglia brothers received such a
harsh reaction from their provincial, John of Fano, when they attempted
to start a new reform movement in 1525-26 that would become the Ca¬
puchin friars. It took the papal bull Religionis Zelus of 1528 to legiti¬
mize these Friars Minor of the Eremetical Life, placing them under the
umbrella of the Conventual friars to protect them. Later in the century,
even more congregations of stricter observance—the Reformed, Recol¬
lect, and Discalced Franciscans—would gain their own autonomy under
Ite vos did fail to meet Leo Xs objectives. It did succeed in one thing,
however: it permanently divided the Order of Friars Minor. We here
today are all brothers, sons of Francis, but are not in the same fraternity.
It is ours to seek a way to walk together into a new future.
103 Ite vos, 7 . 4 .
"May They Grow Holy...’’
Our Common Franciscan
Regis J. Armstrong OFM Cop
Live a Christian and religious existence without losing oneself
in disputes and chattering.
P ope Francis encouraged the General Chapter of the Friars Minor
in 2016, a message he had informally given to the General Minis¬
ters of all three jurisdictions whenever they have met together. Five
centuries earlier another pope, Leo X, used another means to promote
unity in the fractured First Order of Saint Francis when on 29 May 1517
he issued the strongly worded mandate Ite vos. Intended as a decree of
union, it became one of division. Five centuries later, in the same year
as Christians are marking the division initiated by Martin Luther, Con¬
ventual, Capuchin, and Observant Friars Minor are considering what
they have called “A Path for Walking Together and Growing in Common
Vocation and Franciscan Mission.”
Placing Ite vos in its historical context may facilitate looking more ob¬
jectively to the future; re-examining our common values is far more
challenging. Should re-affirming of those values be accentuated? That
could become platitudinous and anesthetic. Should the focus be simply
realistic? That might be subjective and become judgmental. Should the
approach be probing? That might lead to discussion of demographic or
Sarah Rudens book review of Paula Fredriksens Paul: The Pagans Apos¬
tle written for Commonweal provided this author an ideal lens. After
describing the difficulties of placing Fredriksens study of Paul into its
48 | REGIS J. ARMSTRONG OFM CAP
proper context, Ruden admitted, “I’m a poet and translator inclined to
urge celebration of... texts for their beauty and inspiration, and to prefer
a light touch on whatever seems to invite historical over-parsing on the
one hand or superstitious literalism on the other.” 104
Etymologically “translation” comes from the Latin trans-latio, the act
of taking something from one place or time to another. It is, therefore,
the fine art of preserving the character of an original text—sometimes
an ancient one—and giving it new life in vibrant contemporary expres¬
sion. In many ways, the translator walks a tightrope from which he can
fall, from one side, into what can become a moribund nostalgia encased
in cognates or, from the other, into a labyrinth of distracting synonyms
prowling about to find meaning in contemporary idioms. Poetry, mean¬
while, is life-giving or has the power to inspire, to cultivate a sensitivity
to words or, as Robert Frost describes it, “poetry is a way of taking life
by the throat.” 105
One cannot spend all those hours, days, months, and years translating
and studying those early documents of our Franciscan tradition without
celebrating their beauty and inspiration while, at the same time, recog¬
nizing and trying to avoid the historical over-parsing and superstitious
literalism of which Ruden writes. Working as a team in such an en¬
deavor as Francis of Assisi: Early Documents demanded sensitivity to our
unique Conventual, Observant, and Capuchin traditions, perspectives,
and ways of expression. 106 It also demanded of each one of us patience,
understanding, appreciation of one another’s gifts, and above all, humor.
From those early documents, two seemingly simple passages from Fran¬
cis’s writings may be re-affirming in the discussions of division that con¬
front us, realistic as in recognizing new opportunities for overcoming
them, and also, in light of the call to be followers of Francis, probing of
the integrity with which we today live the Gospel life in our increasingly
The first is taken from Francis’s Testament , a text that has been divisive
ever since the thirteenth-century promulgations of Gregory IX’s Quo
104 Sarah Ruden, “Paul: The Pagans Apostle,” Commonweal 6 (October 2017).
105 Elizabeth S. Sergeant, Robert Frost: The Trial by Existence (New York: Holt, Rinehart and
Winston, 1960), 402.
OUR COMMON FRANCISCAN VALUES | 49
elongati (1230) and Nicholas Ills Exiit qui seminat (1279). 107 Both papal
documents emerged at a time when divisions were growing between the
Zelanti or Spirituals and the Conventuals or Community: one side em¬
bracing the idealism expressed in what Francis called “a remembrance,
admonition, exhortation, and my testament;” the other side favoring the
interests of the institution by accentuating the nuances between Gos¬
pel precept and counsel. The second passage is taken from both ver¬
sions of the Letter to the Faithful , 108 It is a text in which Francis welds
together two phrases from the seventeenth chapter of Johns Gospel: the
first from John 17:19, the second from John 17:11. I chose these two
passages of Franciss writings because I felt they captured the 1964 call
of Lumen gentium to “develop and flourish according to the spirit of the
founder,” echoed a year later in Perfectae caritatis } which notes that “the
spirit and aims of each founder should be faithfully acknowledged and
maintained.” 109 Thus we consider two passages from two different writ¬
ings of the saint whose heritage we claim: one historically divisive, the
other ecumenically challenging.
The Testament 14
The first thirteen verses of Francis’s Testament consist of a series of four
simple, autobiographical statements: “The Lord gave me...”, “The Lord
led me...”, and twice more, “The Lord gave me...” Francis articulates in a
very personal way the fundamental values that guided the first genera¬
tion of brothers who yearned to follow the Gospel life in a radical way:
the embrace of a life of penance that began by being led and challenged
by lepers, of a life of simple faith in churches and, again, in priests. Those
initial four instances culminate in this statement in verse 14: “And after
the Lord gave me some brothers, no one showed me what I had to do, but
the Most High Himself revealed to me that I should live according to the
pattern of the Holy Gospel.” 110 In that one statement Francis articulated
his understanding of what we have most in common: a brotherhood and
a life patterned on the Gospel This points to a very interpersonal rela¬
tionship: the “Most High Himself” Who gives, leads, and reveals and the
“I” of Francis. The extremely individual character of this passage is curi¬
ous: “the Lord gave me some brothers, no one showed me what I had to
107 See FA:ED 1:570-575 and FA:ED 111:737-764, respectively.
108 lLtF 1:18 and 2LtF59.
109 LG 45, and PerCar, no. 2b.
1,0 FA:ED 1:125.
50 | REGIS J. ARMSTRONG OFM CAP
do ... the Most High Himself revealed to me that I should live according
to the pattern of the Holy Gospel” What was he leaving us as his “last
will”? The answer to that question seems unanswerable to this day and
may only be answered by Francis’s contrasting uses of “I wish” and “they
must” throughout this text. 111 Francis was, it seems, a man who believed
in Pauls claim that “where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom” (II
Modern Franciscan interpretations of the Testament are undoubtedly
influenced by the work of Kajetan Esser, OFM (d. 1978), the first of his
many studies of the writings of Saint Francis, which culminated in his
critical edition of them. Shortly after World War II, it was translated
into all the major languages of the western world except English when
it finnally saw the light of day in 1982. 112 In a series of conferences he
later delivered in Rome, Esser spoke of these passages as simply under¬
scoring the saints desire for his brothers to cultivate gratitude for the
unique role of the Lord in initiating their way of life of poverty and sim¬
plicity. 113 In other words, Esser saw the Testaments autobiographical sec¬
tion (Test 1-23) in light of that dramatic confrontation at the Chapter of
Mats described in the Assisi Compilation when the brothers urged him
to adopt the rules of Augustine (d. 430), Benedict (d. 547), or Bernard
(d. 1153). 114 After it appeared in English translation, however, Essers
work was simply deemed another work of commentary, swept away in
the wave of books and articles of the Franciscan ressourcement that in¬
troduced English-speaking Franciscans of all three jurisdictions to the
primary sources of their tradition.
While working on a series of spiritual conferences on the Rule and Tes¬
tament delivered in Rome throughout 1974, Esser wrote a provocative
111 Test 6, 8,11,12,20, 27,28, 29 = FA:ED 1:125.
112 Kajetan Esser, The Testament of Saint Francis: A Commentary, trans. Madge Karechi, foreword
by Serge Wrobleski (Pulaski, WI: Franciscan Publishers, 1982), 5.
113 Kajetan Esser, Rule and Testament of St. Francis: Conferences to the Modern Followers of Francis
(Chicago: Franciscan Herald Press, 1977).
114 Anonymous, Assisi Compilation 18: “When blessed Francis was at the general chapter called
the Chapter of Mats, held at Saint Mary of the Portiuncula, there were five thousand brothers
present. Many wise and learned brothers told the Lord Cardinal, who later became Pope Grego¬
ry, who was present at the chapter, that he should persuade blessed Francis to follow the advice of
those same wise brothers and allow himself to be guided by them for the time being. They cited
the Rule of blessed Benedict, of blessed Augustine, and of blessed Bernard, which teach how to
live in such order in such a way.” For a commentary, see Regis J. Armstrong, “Novellus Pazzus in
Mundo: The Call to Foolishness,” Collectanea Franciscana 79 (2009): 469-486.
OUR COMMON FRANCISCAN VALUES | 51
article for the Capuchins: “The Testament of Saint Francis in Capuchin
Legislation” 115 The first third of that article traced the acceptance and
rejection of the Testament amid the tensions and struggles of the two
protagonists involved in Ite vos: tensions and struggles which began
with Quo elongati (1230). Throughout the remainder of the article Esser
made it a point to remind his Capuchin confreres that the secret of their
success could be found in the frequent citations of Francis’s writings, es¬
pecially the Testament , in the first Capuchin Constitutions of 1536, less
than twenty years after Ite vos.
Shortly after Esser’s death, a number of predominantly lay historians be¬
gan looking at the Testament from different, what they considered more
objective perspectives, attempting as best they could to avoid prejudiced
interpretations. Many of them wrote significantly not only of its unique
place among Francis’s writings, but also its implications for Christian—
not simply Franciscan—spirituality. In order to do so, they attempted to
sidestep the polemics of poverty, itineracy, authority, and the obligations
of the evangelical counsels. Instead, they focused more sharply on a pas¬
sage which tends to be overlooked, i.e., “to live according to the pattern
of the Gospel.”
Among them was the respected Italian historian, Giovanni Miccoli. His
1983 article, “Francis of Assisi’s Christian Proposal” offered the insights
of a lay man who marveled at Francis’s genius and at the reasons for
his success and that of the first generation of his followers. 116 Surpris¬
ingly Miccoli devoted only one brief paragraph to Francis’s description
of the way of life lived by “those who came to receive life.” 117 Instead his
research led him to what he saw as “a summary of Francis’s religious
experience” and suggested that the first four autobiographical refer¬
ences to the Lord’s actions in his life 118 set the stage for the fifth. 119 They
were, he suggested, “like different stages or particular moments in the
115 Kajetan Esser, “Das Testament des hi. Franziskus in der Gesetzgebung des Kapuziners,” in
Collectanea Franciscana 44 (1974): 45-69; trans. by Ignatius McCormick as “The Testament of St.
Francis in Capuchin Literature,” Greyfriars Review 4 (1990): 117-141.
116 Giovanni Miccoli, “La Proposta Cristiana di Francesco d’Assisi,” Studi Medievali 24 (1983):
17-76; trans. Edward Hagman as “Francis of Assisi’s Christian Proposal,” Greyfriars Review 3
117 Test 15-23 = FA:ED 1:125-5.
1.8 Test 1, 2,4,6 = FA:ED 1:124.
1.9 Test 14 = FA:ED 1:125.
52 | REGIS J. ARMSTRONG OFM CAP
development of something which would later become a single unified
Meanwhile, the young Italian scholar Roberto Paciocco wrote an article
that built upon the insights of Miccoli, as well as those of Theophile Des-
bonnet, Grado Giovanni Merlo, Attilio Bartoli Angeli, and others. 120 Pa¬
ciocco based his interpretation of I should live according to the pattern
of the Holy Gospel” on the dying Francis’s declaration to his brothers: “I
have done what is mine; may Christ teach you what is yours!” 121 In this
light Paciocco astutely pointed out “how difficult it is to translate ‘live
according to the pattern of the Holy Gospel’ into institutional or juridi¬
cal terms.” The focus of these lay historians, therefore, tended to discuss
more personal or developmental approaches and not by the observance
of the Gospel counsels as seen in Quo elongati and Exiit qui seminat , but
on Francis’s Gospel intuitions.
In 1990 Miccoli re-visited his interpretation in his presentation “A Chris¬
tian Experience between Gospel and Institution.” 122 He acknowledged
the exegetical studies on Francis’s writing in which attempts had been
made to trace the development of a way of life based on the Gospel texts
and allusions in those writings. Then he stated provocatively: “Neverthe¬
less, we do not think that this is the best way to proceed, nor do we think
that it is sufficient to collect the Scriptural references from which Francis
learned to understand the Gospel life.” As he had done in his earlier ar¬
ticle, Miccoli look a much broader and dynamic view and reflected again
on what he perceived as the two daily sources that continually inspired
and shaped Francis’s life: the unfolding mystery of the Incarnation and
the self-implicating revelation of God’s embrace of lesser-ness in the lit¬
urgy of the Eucharist. 123
In this light, it is worthwhile paying attention to Miccoli’s observation
about the exegesis of Francis’s writings at the expense of struggling with
120 Roberto Paciocco, “Una conscienza tra scelta di vita e fama di santita. Francesco d’Assisi ffater
e sanctus,” Hagiographica I (1994): 207-226; trans. Edward Hagman as “Choice of Life vs. Repu¬
tation for Holiness. From Brother Francis to Saint Francis,” Greyfriars Review 10:1 (1996): 27-45.
121 LMj XIV:3 = FA:ED 11:642.
122 Giovanni Miccoli, “Unesperienza Cristiana tra Vangelo e istitutione,” Acts of the XVIII In¬
ternational Congress of Franciscan Studies, Assisi, October 18-20, 1990; trans. Paul Barrett as “A
Christian Experience between Gospel and Institution,” Greyfriars Review 11, no. 2 (1997): llS-
123 Miccoli, “Francis of Assisi’s Christian Proposal," 142.
OUR COMMON FRANCISCAN VALUES | 53
the hermeneutics for understanding them. Raymond Brown made an in¬
sightful distinction between exegesis and hermeneutics as that between
what the texts once “meant” and what they “mean” today. 124 In his Many
Roads Lead Eastward: Overtures to Catholic Biblical Tlreology, Secular
Franciscan and Old Testament professor, Robert D. Miller II, reflected
upon Browns observation and noted: “...this is not as accurate as seeing
it as a “gap” between what was once achieved, intended, or ‘shown,’ and
what might be achieved, intended, or shown today.” 125
Curiously, few modern scholars of the Testament have reflected in their
discussion on this phrase: “the ‘Most High’ himself revealed to me...” In
his 1947 analysis, Esser had touched on it in the general sense of God’s
communications to Francis. Our post-conciliar theology of revelation,
however, raises a question: did Francis understand this to be a call to be
attentive to the content or objective meaning of God’s communication?
If so, it also raises a challenge: what does it mean to be receptive today
to the Lord’s revelation? Revelavit [He revealed], literally “He removed
a veil,” is a word rarely used by Francis—in fact, only three times: once
in the Office of the Passions direct quotation of Psalm 97:2 (“The Lord
has made His salvation known; has revealed his justice in the sight of
the nations”), 126 and twice in this paragraph of the Testament. 127 Only in
the context of “the Lord’s gift of brothers,” however, do the implications
of “the ‘Most High’ himself revealed /removed the veil for me” become
clearer. Three mysteries are implied in this unveiling: the “Most High,”
the brother, and the ways of dealing with both. For example, what is the
mystery behind did the Lord give this brother to me? Or, the mystery
behind what is God trying to teach me through this brother’s strengths
or weaknesses? Or, the mystery behind how I might discover the Gos¬
pel pattern God wants me to follow right now? While the word appears
infrequently in Francis’s writings, its presence in this consideration of
brotherhood and the pattern of Gospel life suggests we might profit
from reflecting on the dynamic of revelation in our daily life.
124 Raymond Brown, The Critical Meaning of the Bible (New York: Paulist Press, 1981), 23-44.1
am grateful to Robert D. Miller II for pointing this out to me.
125 Robert D. Miller II, Many Roads Lead Eastward (Eugene, OR: Cascade Books, 2016), 30ff.
While building upon Browns distinction. Miller was also referring to the work of Stephen E.
Fowl and L. Gregory Jones, Reading in Communion: Scripture and Ethics in Christian Life (Grand
Rapids: Eerdmans, 1991), and David H. Kelsey, “Theological Use of Scripture in Process Herme¬
neutics," Process Studies 13 (1983): 181-188.
126 Office of the Passion, Matins of Easter Sunday, Psalm [IX]: 3 (Ps 98:2) = FA:ED 1:149.
127 Test 14 = FA:ED 1:125.
54 | REGIS J. ARMSTRONG OFM CAP
Anyone familiar with the early academic career of Joseph Ratzinger (b.
1927) will recall his struggle defending Bonaventures theology of revela¬
tion in his habilitation. In what was published as The Theology of History
of Saint Bonaventure —minus its first controversial chapter—the young
academic pointed out that at the time of his doctoral defense, Bonaven¬
tures concept of revelation was not immediately comparable with similar
concepts in modern theology. 128 Ratzinger went on to describe a more
dynamic concept of revelation as “the mystery hidden in Scripture and,
therefore ...effecting a pneumatic understanding of Scripture.” From that
perspective, he considered revelation as referring to “that imageless un¬
veiling of the divine reality in the mystical ascent.” 129 The importance of
Ratzinger s early academic struggle became evident in the first chapter of
Vatican IIs Dei verbum in whose composition he played a significant role.
One sentence, in particular, suggests for the purposes of this presenta¬
tion the influence of Bonaventures theology of the role of Spirit in the
study of Scripture: “The same holy Spirit constantly perfects faith by his
gifts, so that revelation may be more and more deeply understood.” 130 It
became even more significant in Verbum Doming the post-synodal ex¬
hortation “On the Word of God in the Life and Mission of the Church,”
in which as Benedict speaks of “revelation” seventy-four times. 131
It is difficult to reflect on the theology of revelation today without con¬
sulting Rene Latourelle’s (d. 2017) Theology of Revelation or two works of
his renowned student, Avery Dulles (d. 2008), Revelation Theology and
Models of Revelation. 132 In his consideration of hermeneutical models,
Miller reviewed Dulles’s five models of revelation and re-labeled them
through five English words, each beginning with the letter “E”: Encoun¬
ter, Event, Experience, Expression, and Expectation. 133 Millers lens is
helpful for re-examining concerning what the Most High revealed to
Francis in the context of his brothers: the pattern of the holy Gospel.
Francis “encountered” the word (Dulles’s “doctrinal model” of revela¬
tion) in the “event” which took place in either the church of San Nicolo
128 Joseph Ratzinger, The Theology of History in St. Bonaventure, trans. Zachary Hayes (Chicago:
Franciscan Herald Press, 1971), 59.
129 Ratzinger, Theology of History, 59.
130 DV 5.
131 E.g., 6 times alone in VD 3.
132 Rene Latourelle, Theology of Revelation (New York, NY: Alba House, 1966); Avery Dulles,
Revelation Theology: A History (New York: Seabury Press, 1969); idem, Models of Revelation
(Garden City, NY: Image Books, 1985).
133 Miller, Many Roads Lead Eastward, 32ff.
OUR COMMON FRANCISCAN VALUES | 55
or that of the Portiuncula (Dulles’s “historical model”). This moment of
the discovery of God’s word in this place was an unforgettable “expe¬
rience” of divine communication (Dulles’s “inner experiential model”),
one that made an impact, an “expression” to others as in “the Lord re¬
vealed to me” (Dulles’s “dialectical model”), and led to an “expectation,”
the words on his death-bed, “may He do the same for you” (Dulles’s fifth
“new awareness model”).
There is wisdom in Miccoli’s singling out Francis’s daily encounter with
the Incarnation and the Eucharist. From the Incarnation, he discovered
how the Word-made-Flesh lived among his brothers and sisters; from
the Eucharist, he experienced anew, each day how the Word chooses to
come among us. An exegesis of Francis’s writings may best offer us the
hermeneutical tripod of prayer, penance, and poverty upon which to
rest our lens for focusing on the pattern of the holy Gospel in the context
of daily life with our brothers. From this perspective, what may divide
our common heritage most, then, is not our exegesis of Francis’s writ¬
ings about that Gospel life, but the hermeneutics through which we can
discover what that means today. 134
In different settings, however, both Esser and Miccoli pointed to the Ad¬
monitions for an understanding of the implications of the pattern of the
Gospel that must be lived, but from different perspectives: Esser from
the more spiritual, Miccoli from the more historical. What both men
neglected, however, was to accentuate the life-giving activity of the Spirit
who is clearly present in Francis’s First Admonition as the Spirit who
enables us to have an access to and a vision of the “inaccessible” God, 135
and, in the Seventh Admonition the “Spirit of the divine letter” 136 who
gives us life and teaches us how to live it. While so much of our common
Franciscan history has been marred by the polemics of the contents of
the gospel pattern, i.e., poverty, authority, expressions of brotherhood,
etc., might it not be worthwhile for us to reflect more on the spiritual
dynamic—which we actually share in common—as we, like Francis,
134 Without realizing it I may have attempted to do this in my article “Francis of Assisi and the
Prism of Theology,” Collectanea Franciscana 65 (1995): 83-113. While not using Browns ter¬
minology I described Francis as leaving us a unique tripod of penance, prayer, and poverty on
which the Franciscan hermeneutic rests.
135 Adm 1,5 = FA:ED 1:128.
136 Adm 7, 3 = FA:ED 1:132.
56 | REGIS J. ARMSTRONG OFM CAP
struggle to unveil the mysteries of our lives. 137 The Rules single-mind¬
ed, clarion call in this dysfunctional world needs to be heard more than
ever: “...let them pay attention to what they must desire above all else: to
have the Spirit of the Lord and Its holy activity” 138
The First Letter to the Faithful 18
This leads me to the second passage from Francis’s writings and a further
reflection of our common values. In light of the strident tones of Ite vos,
the curious welding of two Johannine phrases in Francis’s writings is
striking: “that they might be sanctified in being one (Jn 17:19) as we are
one (Jn 17:11)” 139 The originality in bringing these two phrases together
seems a natural segue to our discussion of life “according to the pat¬
tern of the Holy Gospel.” 140 Was this a scribal error, one corrected in the
twenty-second chapter of the Earlier Rule? 141 Or was it a fortuitous slip
of his memory? Or was it a Spirit-filled insight into his Gospel intuitions
and an expression of his fundamental Gospel wish for his followers?
Much has been written of Francis’s penchant for the Gospel of John and,
in particular, its seventeenth chapter. The twenty-second chapter of the
Earlier Rule and both exhortations to the Brothers and Sisters of Pen¬
ance 142 contain lengthy citations from it. Some have argued that Francis
appropriates the words of Jesus in order to bring his own prayer to life
according to the pattern of the holy Gospel. In fact, that Gospel pattern
is clearly present as a dynamic principle for all his followers. In all three
writings, 143 three patterns of relationships are discernible: 1) the Father
and the Son, 2) the Son and those whom the Father has given him, and
3) those given to the Son and those who, through them, have come to
believe. The call to grow in holiness is also discernible as it permeates all
three patterns of these relationships beginning with the Father who is
addressed as “holy,” the Son who speaks of his own call to be holy, that
of those given to Him, and that of those through whom others come to
137 A most helpful article in this regard is that of Piet Fransen, “Divine Revelation: Source of
Mans Faith," in Faith: Its Name and Meaning, Papers of the Maynooth Union Summer School,
ed. Paul Surlis (Dublin: Gill and Macmillan Limited, 1970), 18-52.
138 LR X, 8 = FA:ED 1:105.
139 HtF 18 = FA:ED 1:42.
140 See note 61, above.
141 ERXXII, 45 = FA:ED 1:81.
142 HtF and 2LtF.
143 ER, lLtF and 2LtF.
OUR COMMON FRANCISCAN VALUES | 57
believe. Discernible in the pattern of each set of relationships is the call
“in being one as we are one,” lu a call founded on the revelation of the
The Earlier Exhortations version of the welding of these Gospel passages
offers the clearest expression of this pattern of the holy Gospel. It is the
most succinct and straightforward version and, it may be argued, forms
the foundation for the other citations. After reminding his readers of
the wonder of having such a brother who is also such a son, Francis
summarizes his understanding of his Gospel life. The generosity of the
Father to the Son is immediately obvious in the gifts of followers and
of words, as is the generosity of the Son to his followers in gifting his
own followers with the words He has received. Then this prayer: “Ipray
not only for them, but also for those who will believe in me through their
word (Jn 17:20), that they might be sanctified in being one (Jn 17:19) as
we are [one] (Jn 17:11).” 145 While these passages are expressed in terms
of the Father and the Son, the Spirit s presence remains inconspicuous
unless attention is given to Johns theology of the word as spirit and life
and the evangelists repeated mention of “word” and “words,” that is, the
words the Father gives to Son, that Jesus then gives to those who have
been given to Him, and that they in turn give them to those to whom
they are sent. 146 Why? ‘That they might be sanctified in being one as we
are [one]. u
A Final Thought
Over the years I have found helpful Bernard of Clairvaux s encourage¬
ment of his monks to absorb the meaning of an ancient sacred text, the
Song of Songs, by reading “the book of our own experience.” 147 Work¬
ing on Francis of Assisi: Early Documents, the book of experience began
teaching this student of Franciscan life more about our common Fran¬
ciscan values than the text themselves. The frequent meetings Wayne
144 See note 138, above.
145 lLtF 18 = FA:ED 1:42.
146 Enter the role of preachers and theologians who, in the words of the Testament, “minister the
most holy divine words and respect them as those who minister to us spirit and life.” Test. 13 =
147 “In libro experientiae,” Bernard of Clairvaux, On the Song of Songs 3.1, in S. Bernardi Opera,
8 vols., ed. Jean Leclercq et al. (Rome: Editiones Cisterciensis, 1957-1977), here 1.14.7. On the
theme of paying attention to experience in Bernard s writings, see Kilian McDonnell, “Spirit and
Experience in Bernard of Clairvaux,” Theological Studies 58 (1997): 3-18.
58 | REGIS J. ARMSTRONG OFM CAP
Hellmann, Bill Short, and myself would take us from one jurisdiction
to another: from Berkeley, California, to Saint Louis, Missouri, to Inter¬
laken, New York, that is, from the friary of the Friars Minor of the Saint
Barbara Province in Berkeley, to the that of the Conventuals of Our Lady
of Consolation Province in Saint Louis, and to that of the Capuchins of
the Province of Saint Mary in Interlaken. In addition to taking advan¬
tage of room and board, we prayed with our brothers, entered freely into
their banter, and absorbed the wisdom which they offhandedly and free¬
ly imparted to us. Throughout those years we developed lasting friend¬
ships rooted in our common life. After knocking over a Christmas tree
meticulously decorated by a Capuchin in a residence of the Friars Mi¬
nor, setting off fire alarms in a Conventual Provincialate and freezing its
internet connection—all this while repeatedly eating and drinking out
of house and home all three of our jurisdictions—we marveled that we
continued to be welcomed back and always with enthusiasm for and in¬
terest in our work. As a result, what the texts were teaching us about our
common Franciscan values was being verified by our experiences. If, as
Pope Francis maintains, “The charism is not to be conserved like a bottle
of distilled water, but must instead be made to bear fruit, with cour¬
age, placed at the service of current reality, of cultures, of history ...” 148
we must continue to ask ourselves how are we preparing our younger
brother to stand on the shoulders of the giants from whom we learned
how to drink living water and to look forward by looking backward.
Our common Franciscan values are best expressed in our awareness of
the spirit of the founder, as the spirit of Lumen gentium and Perfectae
caritatis encouraged us. Our common Franciscan values? I would like to
suggest that the book of experience has taught the three of us that this
translation enterprise—more than the three volumes themselves—may
prove that we do indeed have much in common. May that book of ex¬
perience offer encouragement and inspiration for those young brothers
who come after us.
148 Francis, Address to the National Assembly of the Italian Conference of Major Superiors, 7
November 2014, http://www.cssr.news/oldnews-en/?p=280 .
Jude Winkler OFM Conv
I would like to thank you for the invitation to participate in this work¬
shop. My presentation will be a little different from the others. First,
I am not a Franciscan scholar. My background is Sacred Scripture,
which I suppose we could call proto-Franciscana. The other reality is
that although I was trained in academics, my role right now is admin¬
istration—serving with the Conventual Curia in Rome. I would like to
present some of the many ways that Franciscans are now collaborating
throughout the world, and challenge us to think in creative ways about
how we could organize new forms of collaboration for the future, always
keeping in mind the phrase that Bill Short OFM used often during his
study day sponsored by the Duns Scotus chair during the Spring of 2018:
unity in diversity.
I am old enough and have been with the friars long enough to recognize
what a miracle this type of gathering is. When I was in formation in
Rome, one of my professors told us of how in past centuries the Conven¬
tual friars would have to leave friaries out the back door singing the De
Profundis while the Friars Minor would enter the front door singing the
Te Deum. Not only was the professor caught up in things that happened
centuries ago, but he was also perpetuating propaganda that was damag¬
ing because it was scandalizing the little ones of Lukes Gospel (18:15-
17). Furthermore, my professors words were betraying our identity. We
call ourselves friars minor. The mutual antagonism among the Orders
was a betrayal of the concept of our identity as friars, as brothers of all
around us, even to the point of being brothers of all of creation. It was
also a betrayal of our identity as minors, for we often prided ourselves
on the fact that we were not like the others, not all that dissimilar to the
60 | JUDE WINKLER OFM CONV
Pharisee who vaunted himself for the fact that he was not like the pub¬
lican (Lk 18:11).
Hopefully, those times are over, and I can bear witness to the fact that
there are good signs throughout the world that they are at least coming
to an end. Why is this new era dawning?
Lets be honest. As with any major phenomenon, there are a series of
motivations for the change in climate in how we friars of the First Order
treat each other.
Part of the reason is demographics. Our Orders have all suffered from a
fall in vocations, especially in the First World. I sometimes compare the
Order to individual friars. We weigh the same as when we entered, but
it has all gone south. Likewise, our Orders are flourishing in the Third
World but suffering and at times dying in the First World. This has a
double impact. First of all, the numbers are falling in the older jurisdic¬
tions where the difficult history of inter-order relations is felt the stron¬
gest, and secondly, the numbers are growing in the very areas where the
difficulties of the past have the least impact. Both of these things help to
weaken the tendency to see the other families as the enemy.
The fall in numbers in the First World means that if we want to continue
our valuable work in certain fields of endeavor, then we must work to¬
gether. The way that we work together might mean a certain migration
of friars from areas where there are more vocations to those areas where
there are fewer, as long as this does not become a form of neo-colonial-
ism. It might also mean working together among the members of the
What has been said about the numbers of the friars can also be applied
to finances. Given the financial situation of our various families, and
the enormous cost of providing for a good formation and education for
friars in areas of the world which are not autonomous financially, we
realize that we cannot go it alone. This is one way that God is allowing us
to taste the bitter-sweet flavor of poverty once again. This can be a great
motivation to a more faithful stewardship of the resources that all of us
COLLABORATION AMONG FRANCISCANS TODAY | 61
Then we have the advances in Franciscan scholarship. In the Spring of
2018 Bill Short OFM offered the biennial study day sponsored by the
Duns Scotus chair at Catholic Theological Union on various topics that
related to Ite vos. He spoke of the inter-order collaboration in the publi¬
cation of the Franciscan sources. The more we delve into those sources,
the more we realize that the hurtful divisions that we have endured for
too long are not from the Spirit. St. Paul reminds us that the Spirit is a
Spirit of peace and not of division (Gal 5:22-23). Too often our commu¬
nities sounded like the Corinthians in the early chapters of First Corin¬
thians—I am for Paul, I am for Apollos, I am for Christ (1 Cor 3:4). I am
for Elias, I am for Leo, I am for Matteo.
In recent years, all religious communities have been challenged by post-
conciliar documents on religious life to give witness to the value of fra¬
ternity. Our first and possibly most important apostolate is to live as
brothers. In a world fragmented by divisions and walls, Pope Francis
calls us to build bridges. 149 Think of the sign value of members of the
families of the First Order working and living together as brothers.
This sign value also has cosmic consequences. There is a Jewish concept
called Tikkun Olam. The world has been wounded by sin, and each good
act that we perform heals in some small way the wounds that our sins
have caused. When a Friar Minor, a Capuchin, and a Conventual col¬
laborate and live in a fraternity of profound respect, the world is trans¬
formed. Having said all of this, what are some of the ways in which we
are working together? Realize that some of these initiatives will come
from the top down, while others are taking place at the grassroots level.
Some involve only friars of the First Order, while others extend to our
sisters of the Second Order, our brothers and sisters of the Third Order,
and our brothers and sisters of what we are today calling the Fourth Or¬
der. This list is not exhaustive, but it gives examples from various sorts
149 This is a common theme in Francis’s teaching, recently reiterated in March of 2019 after visit¬
ing Morocco. See Gerard O’Connell, “Pope Francis: ‘Build Bridges, Not Walls,”’ America (31
March 2019), https://www.americamagazine.org/faith/2019/03/31/pope-francis-build-bridges-
62 | JUDE WINKLER OFM CONV
Collaboration among the Curias
Lets start with the ministry of leadership that is exercised in Rome. I
am starting there not because this is where this movement began, but
it just gives us a good starting point. The ministers general meet often,
almost every month, to plan joint initiatives. A couple of times a year
they meet with the larger group of Franciscan leadership. The vicars of
the First Order also meet almost every month. The ministers general
have issued a number of letters to all the friars of the First Order over
the years, and they have joined forces to seek recourse to the Holy See for
various issues. One example of this is the question of whether religious
brothers can be major superiors in the Order. As you know, Canon Law
recognizes two forms of male religious life: Priestly communities and
Brother communities. For many years, the ministers have sought a third
category: that of mixed communities. It is clear that in the present atmo¬
sphere at the Vatican, canon law is not going to be changed. Therefore,
the ministers sought a grazia from Pope Francis to allow Mendicants to
act as mixed communities. A grazia is a favor given to the communities
and it is valid as long as it is not revoked. We have not yet received a re¬
sponse from the Vatican, but we are hoping that maybe when the friars
meet with the Pope on November 23, 2018, there might be some sort of
The definitories have also set up a schedule to gather for picnics or other
events at least twice a year at each of the curias. This might sound in¬
nocuous, but I am a firm believer that more good is done over a picnic
table than in a conference room. We are breaking down preconceptions
A major initiative at this level is also what is happening with the Fran¬
ciscan University in Rome. The official date for the inauguration of this
university is Easter of 2018. Realistically, the actual opening of the new
university, after all the permissions have been received from the govern¬
ment and the Congregation, is either the Fall of 2019 or 2020. Neverthe¬
less, is it moving ahead. All three ministers general are firm on this, and
they are ensuring that whatever opposition that arises is overcome. At
its initial stages, there will be two campuses: one at the Antonianum and
one at the Seraphicum. The Seraphicum will be the site for undergradu¬
ate studies in philosophy and theology, while the Antonianum will be
the site for licentiate and doctoral studies. There will be four faculties:
COLLABORATION AMONG FRANCISCANS TODAY | 63
biblical sciences, philosophy, theology, and canon law with the Institute
of Franciscan Spirituality. One of the critical issues that still needs work
is finances, and up to this point the academics in the various commis¬
sions have not been able to handle that issue very well. It has been agreed
that both of the present faculties will be suppressed and a new entity
established, similar to what happens when two jurisdictions of the same
order are united.
Working Together for a Particular Purpose
One especially successful area of collaboration among the Orders is
the joint school for missionaries in Brussels, Belgium. This program is
housed in a friary of the Friars Minor, and it offers two programs in mis¬
sionary preparation a year: in the fall there is a two- to three-month pro¬
gram in English and in the Spring there is another program in French.
There has been some talk of possibly moving the program to Palestrina
in Italy, but this is still at the talk level.
Justice and Peace Collaboration
Justice and Peace work is in the DNA of the friars, but at times one has
to wonder if the friars have allowed it to become a recessive gene. Friars
tend to get busy in their apostolates, and they can, at times, be negligent
in addressing the justice and peace issues at home and abroad. That is
why the success of the collaboration of the families of the First Order
and the entire Franciscan family in justice, peace, and the safeguarding
of creation is so important.
Over thirty years ago, a Friar Minor from Malta and a couple of Fran¬
ciscan Sisters from the States proposed a Franciscan presence at the UN.
These initiatives evolved into Franciscans International or FI, which
today has offices in Geneva and New York. They are sponsored by the
generals of many Franciscan families: Friars Minor, Capuchin, Conven¬
tual, Third Order Regular, International Franciscan Conference, Secular
Franciscan Order, and the Anglican Franciscans. They work on human
rights issues, serving as an NGO that can make interventions during
various conferences and hearings. One of the moments in which they
can intervene the most is during the four-year evaluation of human
rights issues in each country of the UN. If a country has not mentioned
a particular issue that the Franciscans in that area have flagged, the ad-
64 | JUDE WINKLER OFM CONV
vocacy team of FI can issue comments on it at a public hearing, which
often leads to a negotiation between the offending country and FI. One
example of the work FI has done is that it was instrumental in getting
extreme poverty classified as a form of human rights violation.
What FI does at an international level, the Franciscan Action Network
does in the United States. They lobby at various levels of government
concerning human rights and environmental issues. They also work ex¬
tensively to educate the friars themselves about these issues.
In Rome, we have the representatives from various Franciscan families
working together as the “Roman VI” Inter-Franciscan Commission.
Furthermore, there is serious discussion in Rome about whether there
should be one office for the friars working for justice and peace, and pos¬
sibly another for those working together for ecumenical and inter-faith
Some of the justice and peace initiatives that have been started by a par¬
ticular family of the First Order have then spread out to involve other
friars. A good example of this is the Capuchin program called the Dami-
etta Peace Initiative in Africa. Remember, Damietta is where Francis met
the Sultan, and this initiative seeks to bring together various antagonistic
groups into dialogue. In South Africa, this is locals and refugees from
other parts of Africa; in Kenya, it is feuding tribes; in Nigeria, it is Chris¬
tians and Muslims.
Initial and Continuing Formation
Two areas of increasing collaboration are initial and continuing forma¬
tion. A highlight in collaboration in initial formation is the inter-order
collaboration seen in our joint seminary in Lusaka, Zambia. This par¬
ticular program involves friars of the three families living in separate
residences with separate programs but studying in a common faculty.
Obviously, there is also collaboration on workshops and joint presenta¬
What has recently happened in California is another example of a drift
toward collaboration. In the fall of 2017, the Friars Minor moved their
national novitiate to Santa Barbara, which means that all three national
novitiates of the First Order are in California, with the Capuchins in
COLLABORATION AMONG FRANCISCANS TODAY | 65
Sant Inez and the Conventuals in Arroyo Grande. The directors of the
three programs are already in dialogue about how they might offer joint
programs, and we can foresee collaboration with spiritual directors,
workshops, etc. Possibly most important, now that all three families are
near each other, we might finally have enough talent to beat the diocesan
seminarians at Camarillo in soccer.
There are also numerous sites where the friars either study together in
one of our faculties—as in Cracow where the Conventuals and Capu¬
chins study theology together, and all three orders studying together in
the seminary run by the Friars Minor in Vietnam—or we study together
in a faculty run by someone else, such as San Antonio.
Continuing formation offers many possibilities for collaboration. Again,
part of the motivating factors is demographics. It is easier to hold sol¬
emn vow retreats, guardians’ workshops, retreats, etc. when there is a
critical mass of friars; on the other hand, there is a value in doing these
things together simply for the fact of being together. Talking with friars
throughout the world, I have heard of joint solemn vow retreat programs
in the United States and Slovenia, joint guardians’ workshops in Argen¬
tina and Brazil, joint initiatives in Korea and Germany.
Over these years, many of our Franciscan feasts have offered the pos¬
sibility for common celebrations. There is the Transitus on October 3.1
remember being at Oceanside a couple of years ago when all the families
were well represented. There is the feast of the Portiuncula on August 2
and the feast of St. Clare on August 11. There are also the many Chap¬
ters of Mats and pilgrimages that are held throughout the world in these
Then there are other special events that present possibilities for collabo¬
ration. One of them is the ecumenical gathering called the Spirit of As¬
sisi. This gathering for inter-religious dialog and prayer was begun by
St. John Paul II in 1986 in Assisi and continues under the sponsorship
of the Communita di Sant’Egidio. This lay-run organization from Rome
was founded in 1968 as a Catholic response to all the confusion of that
year of rebellion throughout much of the First World. While the Spirit
66 | JUDE WINKLER OFM CONV
of Assisi gathering is held in different sites all over the world, it returned
to Assisi in 2016.
There is the Franciscan Day offered at all the recent World Youth Days.
Rather than having individual gatherings for the hundreds of youth
sponsored by the various Franciscan families, there is one common
gathering to celebrate our unity in diversity.
The very event that we are commemorating today has offered us a great
opportunity for collaboration. The most significant center for this ini¬
tiative has been Umbria. The birthplace of our Orders has not always
been a center of inter-order dialog. I remember as a student hearing that
the Conventuals in Assisi would brag that we had the body while the
Friars Minor at the Portiuncula would respond that they had the spirit.
However, these past years the friars throughout Umbria have committed
themselves to a multi-year program of dialog. The topics in this dialog
were: “Remembering” in 2015; “Reconciliation” (especially for the an¬
niversary of the Portiuncula Indulgence) in 2016; “Fraternity” in 2017,
with a celebration of a type of chapter of mats and a pilgrimage to Rome
on November 23. In 2018 it is evangelization, so that our commemora¬
tion of this event not be centered upon introspection but lead us to pro¬
claim the dawning of the Kingdom.
The Secular Franciscan Order (OFS)
We should not forget the tremendous work that our sisters and brothers
of OFS have done for us in reorganizing their presences so that they are
no longer under the jurisdiction of any of our individual families. We
have assumed the rightful place of being spiritual assistants and not the
leaders of their Order. Admittedly, this reorganization has gone better in
some places and not so well in others. Ironically and sadly, it was often
the friars who placed the largest barriers to the breaking down the walls.
Franciscan Intellectual Tradition
Another very hopeful movement in recent years is the fostering of the
Franciscan Intellectual Tradition. As we have fewer and fewer academic
institutions under our direct guidance, it has been important to foster
friars and sisters in this tradition so that we will not lose an important
part of our heritage, something which we have an obligation to share
COLLABORATION AMONG FRANCISCANS TODAY | 67
with the world. As time has gone by, though, this movement has reached
out to people whom we sometimes call members of the Fourth Order.
They are not Franciscans by profession, but their spirits are thoroughly
within our tradition. I must recognize Wayne Heilman as one friar who
has been instrumental in fostering Franciscan Studies at a graduate level
among his lay students.
I have already mentioned the collaboration that we saw in the produc¬
tion of the Franciscan Sources books.
In the past few years, we have begun some experiments in establishing
joint houses. This month, November 2017, we are opening a project in
Jerusalem, actually in one of the towns that claims to be Emmaus, where
Friars Minor and Conventuals will live together. The Capuchins are not
joining this project yet due to some difficulties they have had with their
own house in Jerusalem, but we hope that they too will soon be part of
this project. At present there are two Friars Minor from outside the Holy
Land Custody, one Holy Land Custody friar, and two Conventuals there.
They will spend this year discussing their joint project, and then we will
see where it will go.
There are two other projects in active research. One is an invitation from
Cardinal O’Malley of Boston to open a joint friary in his archdiocese.
The other is to open a friary in Rieti, Italy. There the difficulty has been
to convince the bishop of Rieti that we do not want to accept so many
parishes in his diocese served by the one friary, an obligation that would
destroy the tenor of life we want to live there.
There are obvious canon law issues with establishing a joint friary. The
Conventual Minister General has a saying that we will make the deci¬
sions, and then we will find a canon lawyer to prove that what we are
doing is OK. And if the canon lawyer does not agree with us, we will find
another canon lawyer.
Possibilities for the Future
When Bill Short OFM gave his workshop in the Spring of 2017 here
at Catholic Theological Union, he used the phrase unity in diversity. I
don’t see the three Orders joining together any time soon. Let’s face it,
68 | JUDE WINKLER OFM CONV
it is difficult enough for provinces to unite within the same family of
the First Order. We still have too much provincialism in every sense of
the word. We still get caught up in our little worlds and have too little
energy to dream and risk. We fall into the trap mentioned by Flannery
O’Connor, that we “vigorously resist grace, because grace changes us and
the change is painful.” 150
However, we have to continue to do things that will move us forward,
wherever that forward will lead us. Why can’t we set up a joint commis¬
sion to talk about establishing presences of friars in joint communities
in areas of the country or in other countries where the friars don’t yet
exist. In this country, I am thinking especially of areas around Portland,
Seattle, and Vancouver. Why can’t we set up joint experimental houses
for friars who are called to an eremitical lifestyle, or who are artists, or
who want to live a very simple lifestyle? Why do we as orders have to
duplicate initiatives and reinvent the wheel when it would be more logi¬
cal to work together?
150 Flannery O’Connor, The Habit of Being: Letters of Flannery O'Connor, ed. Sally Fitzgerald
(New York: Vintage, 1980), 307.
‘‘Lifelong Formation for Fran¬
ciscan Men in the U.S. in
Service of God’s Mission”
(25-27 October 2018)
F or three days forty-plus Franciscan brothers assisted by two OSF sis¬
ters gathered for a symposium on lifelong formation for Franciscan
men at Catholic Theological Union in Chicago, Illinois. The gath¬
ering was sponsored by the Duns Scotus Chair in Spirituality at CTU.
Over the past two decades the chair, endowed by the St. John the Baptist
Province of OFM friars in 1997, has sponsored scholarship and educa¬
tional initiatives in support of the Franciscan charism. These efforts have
included lectures by renowned scholars such as Sr. Ilia Delia OSF of Vil-
lanova University, and study days by leading Franciscan thinkers such as
Bill Short OFM of the Franciscan School of Theology.
This first-of-its-kind symposium was designed to expand the conversa¬
tion by inviting first and third order brothers from a variety of commu¬
nities and jurisdictions to ponder the promise and demands of form¬
ing Franciscan men for the twenty-first century. Participants included
Atonement Friars, Franciscan Brothers of Brooklyn, TORs, OFM, OFM
70 | EDWARD FOLEY OFM CAP
Conventual, and OFM Capuchin friars from across the United States
and some brothers from Europe. Invitations had been extended to mul¬
tiple other communities as well.
In 1217 the Franciscan order was officially divided into two separate
families by Pope Leo X in his proclamation Ite vos. 151 In recent years
there have been various “Beyond Ite vos” efforts from the international
to local levels to move beyond the long standing divisions within the
Franciscan family and build avenues of communication and collabora¬
tion. 152 As Edward Foley, the current Duns Scotus Professor of Spiritual¬
ity, explained, the advisory board for the Duns Scotus Chair—composed
of OFM, OFM Conventual, OFM Capuchin, and OSF representatives—
recognized that this first symposium could not address the needs of
every group. It was thus decided that it would be appropriate to focus
on the formation of Franciscan men so that they could develop a more
united presence and provide leadership around the vision for the Fran¬
ciscan family in the future. As previous events sponsored by this chair
have invited the presence of Franciscan Sisters and Secular Franciscans,
so any future symposia would also expand to include these important
members of the Franciscan family.
The symposium was structured around a series of presentations, two of
which were open to the public. Michael Perry OFM, the current minis¬
ter general of the Order of Friars Minor, offered an opening lecture on
Thursday evening entitled “‘You are my Son , the Beloved; with you I am
well pleased :* Musings from the Margins.” Taking his cue from the Gos¬
pel of Mark (1:9-15), Br. Michael explored that text as one that presents
necessary elements for the lifelong journey of religious life and disciple-
ship. His presentation, livestreamed on CTU Facebook, and soon to be
posted on the CTU website, was attended by a large group of Francis¬
cans, including men in initial formation from the OFM, Conventual,
and Capuchin communities. The following day, three participants in
the symposium offered responses to Br. Michaels presentation, which
spurred the morning discussion.
A second presentation was offered on Friday morning by Sister Margaret
Guider OSF, Associate Professor of Missiology and Chair of the Eccle¬
siastical Faculty at Boston Colleges School of Theology and Ministry,
151 See the fresh translation of this text included earlier in this volume.
152 See the overview of these efforts provided by Jude Winkler OFM Conv., above.
DEFRAGMENTING FRANCISCANISM I 71
and member of the Duns Scotus advisory board. In her “Stewarding the
Grace of Fraternity: Living out the Franciscan Charism of‘Being Broth¬
ers’ in Service of Gods Mission” Sr. Margaret reminded the group that
it was only after the Lord gave Francis brothers that the Poverello fo¬
cused on the Gospel form of life. Then, employing Matthew’s parable of
the talents (25:14-30) she invited the brothers to consider what kind of
stewards of the grace of fraternitas have we, are we, and will we become.
These challenges were the focus of discussion for the rest of the morning.
On Friday afternoon Dan Horan OFM, Assistant Professor of Systematic
Theology at CTU, offered a presentation on “Liquidity and the Abyss:
Lifelong Theological Formation for U.S. Franciscans.” Br. Dan focused
on contemporary theological trends, challenges, and hopes that need at¬
tention in forming Franciscan men today. In this “liquid” era in which
there are powerful forces attempting the decolonialization of standards
of knowing and experience, Br. Dan proposed that two theological areas
that need attention by Franciscans are a theology of authenticity and the
meaning of the human person. Small group discussion and interaction
with the presenter occupied the participants for this first afternoon ses¬
The final session on Friday afternoon was designed as a grassroots mo¬
ment in which participants were asked to brainstorm about what issues
were not being addressed and needed to be raised, as well as what is¬
sues or ideas really resonated with them and needed to be remembered.
This discussion, like the whole of the symposium, was facilitated by Sr.
Margaret Carney, OSF. The former director of the Franciscan Institute
at St. Bonaventure University, and then President of that University, Sr.
Margaret brought not only formidable facilitation skills but also a vast
knowledge of Franciscan theology and spirituality to the task. Her ability
to weave Franciscan sources, stories, and poetry into the process contrib¬
uted to the forward momentum of the symposium and the lively engage¬
ment of its participants. This grassroots session yielded affirmations and
particularly unaddressed issues that covered seven large post-it sheets.
Pat McCloskey OFM, editor of St. Anthony Messenger magazine, volun¬
teered to serve as secretary for the symposium and assisted Sr. Margaret
in compiling and recording these comments.
Friday evening was the second public presentation, this time by John
Corriveau OFM Cap., former minister general of the Capuchin Order
72 | EDWARD FOLEY OFM CAP
and recently retired bishop of Nelson, British Columbia. His topic was
“A Brotherhood of Missionary Disciples” In his presentation Br. John
noted that in a unique turn Francis chose to model his form of religious
life on the life of Jesus’s missionary disciples. From this flowed his two
main points: 1) the embrace of Franciscan brotherhood is the embrace
of Jesus Christ, and 2) that embrace leads to Franciscan brotherhood.
Br. Johns impassioned presentation was again attended by a large group
of friars, including many brothers in initial formation from the vari¬
ous Franciscan communities in and around Chicago. The presentation
was videotaped and will be available on the CTU website. On Saturday
morning, three symposium participants responded to Br. Johns talk,
which sparked the morning conversation in the symposium. In final ses¬
sion of the symposium, facilitator Sr. Margaret asked the group to con¬
sider “What is your new mandatum after this symposium” and “What is
our mutual mandatum from this symposium?” The participants offered
many suggestions for what they and their individual obediences could
do in light of this gathering, as well as suggestions for further work of the
Duns Scotus Chair.
As part of the environment for the symposium Jerry Bleem OFM, direc¬
tor of formation for the OFM interprovincial temporary professed pro¬
gram in Chicago and an adjunct Associate Professor at the School of the
Art Institute in Chicago, coordinated a juried art show entitled “Prayer
and Devotion: Franciscan Art, Franciscan Artists.” This unique instal¬
lation, on display at the Veeck Art Gallery at CTU from September 16
through December 15 of 2018, featured over twenty-five works in glass,
textiles, paint, and other media. Symbolic of the Franciscan tradition of
embracing beauty as a central theological theme, these beautiful works
provided the setting for fellowship among the symposium participants
whose meals were served in the gallery. Similar attention was given to
the prayer environment that included celebrations of the Liturgy of the
Hours punctuated by music, texts, and prayers in nine different languag¬
es, reflecting the diverse heritages and ministry experiences of the sym¬
“You are my Son, the Beloved; with you I am well pleased"
Mu sings from
Michael A. Perry OF A/I
In those days Jesus came from Nazareth of Galilee and was
baptized by John in the Jordan. And just as he was coming up
out of the water ; he saw the heavens torn apart and the Spirit
descending like a dove on him. And a voice came from heaven,
“You are my Son, the Beloved; with you I am well pleased.”
And the Spirit immediately drove him out into the wilderness.
He was in the wilderness forty days, tempted by Satan; and he
was with the wild beasts; and the angels waited on him.
Now after John was arrested, Jesus came to Galilee, proclaim¬
ing the good news of God, and saying, “The time is fulfilled,
and the kingdom of God has come near; repent, and believe in
the good news ” (Mk 1:9-15)
G ood evening to you my dear Conventual, Capuchin, Third Or¬
der Regular, Atonement and OFM brothers, Brothers of the
Renewal, Secular Franciscans, Franciscans of the Anglican
Communion, and to all others who are present. Whenever St. Francis of
Assisi would greet a group of people, especially while engaging in popu¬
lar preaching, he would call for the peace of God to descend upon them.
Perhaps this was something he learned during his brief visit to Egypt 800
years ago, staying for a time in the camp of the Muslim military leader
al-Malik al-Kamil. I hope that this same peace might descend upon all
who are participating in this symposium.
74 | MICHAEL A. PERRY OFM
It is a great joy for me to be here with you in and to participate in this
symposium dealing with the question, “What does it mean for us Fran¬
ciscans in general, and those of us who share an identical rule and charis¬
matic origin, and indeed for all who have embraced consecrated life and
the public profession of the evangelical vows to be engaged in a lifelong
process of conversion?” Perhaps the more difficult question we must face
is, “What forces from the heavens will be required for of us to be con¬
vinced that the journey upon which we have embarked is lifelong?”
Mark 1:9-15: Jesus’s Lifelong Vocational Journey of Conversion
I begin by reflecting on chapter 1 of the Gospel of Mark, which deals
with the initial moments in the life of Jesus where he moves from a pri¬
vate life in and around Nazareth, to a public life that would eventually
lead him to Jerusalem, the center of religious and political power, and to
his death. I believe Marks text offers some clues about the nature of our
religious profession and presents us with elements necessary for the life¬
long journey upon which those of us who are religious have embarked.
However, I also believe this applies equally to all disciples, as Pope Fran¬
cis has made clear in his Apostolic Exhortation Evangelii gaudium.
In the opening lines of the text, Jesus goes from Nazareth to the Jordan
River where his cousin John is conducting some form of ritual purifica¬
tion: an initiation into a new form of life involving a personal conversion
and entry into some new type of community. Jesus goes out in search of
John. Can we speak of Jesus feeling the pull of the Spirit, a desire to un¬
derstand more fully the purpose of his life and his future?
No matter what response we give to this question, what we can affirm in
Marks understanding of conversion is that it always has a social or pub¬
lic dimension and is not simply a private or individual matter. Through
baptism into the way of Jesus, one receives a new identity of choosing to
place God at the center of ones life, which must be deepened and devel¬
oped over a lifetime of decision-making. Discipleship in the community
of Mark is about embracing the gift of the calling Jesus offers to each and
every person. It also is about undertaking this new way of life that one
has received as gift: a gift that is understood as it is lived in a community
of others who also have received the same gift and together lived with
the Rabbi Jesus, who accompanies and helps to explain the significance
of the gift.
MUSINGS FROM THE MARGINS | 75
Discipleship in the Gospel of Mark is experienced as an unfolding of the
mystery of God over the course of a lifelong process, with Jesus as the
first and model disciple. This unfolding takes place most powerfully in
the constancy of exchanges: of praying, eating and drinking, and walk¬
ing alongside the Master, who shares his life with his disciples, teaching
them to follow his example.
A Franciscan Reflection
Stepping out of the biblical text for a moment, I find some key elements in
what we have seen in this first part of the text of Marks gospel also pres¬
ent in the spiritual intuition and life practice of our founder, St. Francis
of Assisi. Francis’s own calling begins with the promptings of the Holy
Spirit. General Secretary for Formation and Studies for the Order of Fri¬
ars Minor, Bro. Cesare Vaiani argues that for Francis, God is experienced
as the “first author of our formation and guide of our evangelization.” 153
After only one year, Francis and the brothers, feeling pressure from
without to explain what their Gospel life was about, prepared a short
document that was presented to the Pope for his approbation. This doc¬
ument no longer exists, but the brothers, gathered in annual chapter,
continued to add to the initial text what they were learning about their
life with God, in fraternity, and their engagement in mission (preaching,
social service, etc.). Upon his return from Egypt, Francis felt pressure to
prepare a document that could explain to them the life into which they
had been called, the vocation they had received, and the responsibili¬
ties that came as a result. In 1221, St. Francis and his brothers prepared
a text that, fundamentally, presented their way of life modeled on the
way of life of Jesus presented in the Gospels. This Regula non bullata
(Early Rule) 154 was to serve to inspire the brothers to commit to follow
Jesus. Francis did not want his brothers to be guided by a set of rules
to which the brothers were to conform their lives. He wanted them to
remain in deep communion with the poor and crucified Lord Jesus, and
for them to seek to live this experience of deep communion by living
among brothers and sisters who were poor, excluded, exploited, power¬
less, and landless. Still, this document for evangelical living did not re¬
ceive sufficient support from the brothers, which meant that Francis was
153 Personal communication from him.
154 FA:ED 1:63-86.
76 | MICHAEL A. PERRY OFM
required to prepare yet a third document, the Regula bullata (1223) 155
that could provide sufficient security to his followers that the way of life
they had professed met with the approval of the Church. Perhaps the
brothers were acting in good faith, trying to protect the movement from
being quashed by the hierarchy of the Church who sought to root out
evangelical movements that were critical of the structures, and others
that proposed a way of life that—according to the Church’s understand¬
ing of its identity and mission—was inconsistent with the received faith.
Francis complied with those seeking a stricter description or rule to gov¬
ern the movement, with the help of friars trained in canon law and the
assistance of Cardinal Ugolino. However, Francis would not relent in his
conviction that the Gospel provided the fundamental vision and means
for achieving what God had asked of him, and what he was convinced
God was asking of all the brothers.
Thus, Francis transformed the concept of rule into a way of life, modeled
on the life of Jesus discovered through his personal engagement with the
biblical texts, from moments of intense prayer and contemplation, and
from practicing the way Jesus proposed to his disciples and to Francis.
For this reason, Francis’s document on living the Gospel is entitled Rule
and Life. The rule is grounded in Jesus’s experience of living in a par¬
ticular way what he received from the Father in the waters of the Jordan,
and that was further developed in all succeeding moments of his life,
the choices he made to love God and love all that God had created, the
golden rule. Francis added a few canonical additions to ensure its ap¬
proval by the Holy See.
The life involved the daily re-commitment of Francis and the brothers
to seek the way of conversion and transformation. This Rule and Life
applied equally to all brothers, those at the beginning of their vocational
journey as well as those in the middle or nearing the end of their journey.
In the mind of Francis, there was no distinction between the responsi¬
bilities for receiving and living the way of life of the Gospel set out in
the Rule and Life between novices and professed members of the Order.
Nor was it the case that the older, professed friars were to transmit a set
of rules, norms, and regulations to the younger members and novices.
What mattered most in the mind of Francis was the centrality of living
what the friars professed. They were to be living signs of the very life they
155 FA:ED 1:99-106.
MUSINGS FROM THE MARGINS | 77
publicly professed, which means they were to be men grounded in a life-
giving relationship with God, to be men of prayer. They were to show
love and mercy to one another through the daily living out of the Gospel
in the fraternity, the privileged place for the revelation of God in the life
of the friars. And they were to open their lives in a special way to Gods
poor, living among those who were discarded, exploited, marginalized.
And they were to pursue a life of penance ( metanoia) that would further
open them to the mystery of God present everywhere: in the followers
of Islam, in the self-serving political and aristocratic classes, and in all of
creation. This progressive conversion process could only take place if the
brothers were to come to understand that their vocational journey ran
from the moment of their first calling to the day when they would depart
from this world and be welcomed into paradise. 156
Mark 1:11: “You are my Son, the Beloved; with you I am well pleased”
Mark then tells us that Jesus submitted to the ritual purification and bap¬
tism in the waters of the Jordan River conducted by John the Baptist.
Mark does not miss the opportunity to inform us that something amaz¬
ing happens in the life of Jesus: whatever awareness he might have had of
his identity and mission prior to the event of baptism, we will probably
never know. But the moment Jesus re-emerges from the waters of the
Jordan the Spirit of God descends upon him like a dove, and a voice cries
out from the heavens: “You are my Son, the Beloved; with you I am well
pleased” (Mk 1:11). Jesus receives confirmation of a new identity, one
that is given to him as gift from God, and that, according to the evan¬
gelist, forever changed the course of his life. While Jesus initially took
the initiative to leave Nazareth and go into the desert in search of John,
here Jesus no longer is in charge; the Spirit of God now assumes the role
as chief protagonist. This does not mean that Jesus is exonerated of all
personal responsibility, submitting blindly to the will of God. Rather, it
means that the calling he received—and I would suggest that all religious
receive—begins with God. What follows is a lifelong partnership: God
doing what God can do, Jesus walking with us at each stage of our lives,
doing the same for us as he did for the disciples at Emmaus, opening our
eyes to see the handiwork of God, Gods provident presence in our lives,
and enabling us to remain constant in our vocational journey.
156 Cf. Francis’s “The Admonitions” “Letter to a Minister,” and “Testament,” in FA:ED 1:128-37,
97-98, and 124-27 respectively.
78 | MICHAEL A. PERRY OFM
One critical comment is required at this juncture in our reflection. We
know that the Gospels are not meant to serve as an historical account,
a daily ledger of what transpired in the life of Jesus, his early disciples,
and all those who witnessed his life and work. What Mark and the other
evangelists provide is unity of identity and action, interpreting: 1) who
Jesus is from a theological point of view, and 2) the meaning of his life,
words, and actions, not only in his life but in the lives of all who would
follow in his way. What emerges from the Gospel stories is thus what
Timothy Radcliffe calls “narrative unity,” 157 revealing that each decision,
each action of Jesus forms part of a cohesive whole. Jesus’s going to Gali¬
lee where he preached about the kingdom of God was a consequence of
the decisions he made earlier, which took him to the waters of the Jordan
where he was confirmed by God. This action of going into the waters of
baptism and being confirmed by God is what then led him to be driven
by the Spirit into and through the wilderness/ desert.
Radcliffe continues: “To have an identity is for the choices that one
makes throughout one’s life to have a direction, a narrative unity. What I
do today must make sense in the light of what I did before. My life has a
pattern, like a good story.” 158
Jesus’s life has a pattern; it makes sense from beginning to end. This is
precisely what the evangelists perceive in the life of Jesus. Mark has em¬
braced the same call as the one received by Jesus, namely, to become a
disciple of the Father. He recognizes that discipleship in the community
of the Lord Jesus is an invitation to receive the gift that Jesus received,
and to enter into an entirely new way of insight or perceiving and see¬
ing that leads to a new way of living and acting. Jesus’s life becomes the
model par excellence for a lifelong commitment to conversion of mind,
heart, and deeds required of all Christian disciples. “Follow me” (Mk
1:17; 2:14), “for there were many who followed him” (Mk 2:15). This
following of Jesus will lead to many crises and to the cross, but also to
the resurrection. Does this have any bearing on our life as consecrated
157 Timothy Radcliffe, “The Identity of Religious Today,” keynote to US Conference of Major
Superiors (8 August 1996), http://www.dominicans.ca/Documents/masters/Radcliffe/religious
158 Radcliffe, “Identity of Religious Today.”
MUSINGS FROM THE MARGINS I 79
Crisis as the Way of Christian Discipleship and a Model for Religious
What next takes place in the Markan text is actually quite disturbing be¬
cause it suggests something fundamental and fundamentally perplexing
about discipleship lived in the community of the Christ. Jesus is imme¬
diately driven into the desert by the Spirit of God where he will remain
for forty days and undergo temptation at the hands of Satan. The text
also tells us that he will be accompanied by wild animals and angels who
minister to him. Marks understanding of Christian conversion is actu¬
ally quite radical. Jesus’s own conversion and transformation take place
under very strenuous conditions. No matter how glorious some recent
spiritual writers have tried to make of it, the desert was no joking matter.
Without stretching the text of Mark too far—and taking into account
the narrative of this same event in the Gospels of Matthew (4:1-11) and
Luke (4:1-13)—I believe we can say that Jesus participated in a formative
process that progressively helped him to understand and embrace that
which the Father expected of him and, consequently, would be required
of him. The first expectation was that he embrace the new identity that
God, in the Spirit, was offering to him: “My beloved Son in whom I am
well pleased.” What was required was that he place his entire life at the
disposition of God’s action and God’s intention for him, for the sake of
his disciples and for the sake of the world.
Mark’s brief text makes reference to the number forty, used symbolically
to recall the events of Moses: the exodus, desert wanderings, struggles
and sufferings of those who united their fives and hopes in the mission
of Moses. These were the hopes of those who followed Moses into the
desert that God’s promise of fullness of fife might come to pass in their
fives and those of their descendants. The promise, for which Moses and
the Israelites literally risked their fives, comprised three central themes
or benefits. First, the promise offered an opportunity to undergo a trans¬
formation of the conditions of security for their fives with the dawning of
a new reign of peace and tranquility. Second, they hoped that by leaving
all behind to follow Moses—thus to follow God—that their fives would
be richly blessed with material improvement and that all of their basic
needs would be satisfied. Third, they believed that by following Moses
in pursuit of God’s promise, their fives would be become righteous and
holy. As with Moses, so with Jesus. Both were considered God-fearing
80 | MICHAEL A. PERRY OFM
and God-centered men of faith. Yet this did not mean that their personal
holiness or faith would allow them to find shortcuts to the promised
land. There are no secret directions for getting to the promised land, no
quick access to the promise of coming into the freedom that God offers
to those who love and follow him (Cf. Rom 18:18-21).
Fundamental to the stories of both of these God-fearing men is the truth
that there is no shortcut to the promised land. One cannot short-circuit
what is required to be set free from all that is not of God, to be set free for
living Gods dream for all of humanity and the created universe. Forty
days or forty years are just another way of saying that entering the life of
discipleship offered, which God offers to each of us, is to enter into a life¬
long engagement to seek conversion of heart, holiness of life, the pursuit
of the justice and the peace of God.
There is a further theological dimension to what Jesus experiences in
the desert and that prepares him for his lifelong journey. For Mark, cri¬
ses and suffering—the result of choosing daily to follow Jesus with an
undivided heart—contain the seeds of a redemptive grace. This is God
unleashing divine love and mercy upon all peoples, leading to the trans¬
formation of human history and the conversion of each disciple who has
undertaken the way of Jesus. Is there something we could learn from this
theological understanding of redemptive suffering in Marks portrayal of
who Jesus is, and who we are as disciples of the crucified and risen One?
Is there some way we might include the redemptive aspects of suffering
that might help us embrace with conviction and commitment a way of
life that helps to keep our eyes fixed on Jesus, only Jesus! In what way
might the theme of redemptive suffering aid us to understand and create
ways for living better together, suffering with one another in fraternity/
community, and encouraging one another to pursue a lifelong commit¬
ment to penance and conversion? Does this theme of redemptive suf¬
fering also have something to offer us as we seek new ways to encounter
all peoples, especially the poor, excluded, those have suffered violence
in their lives, and particularly those who have had to run for their and
their family’s lives, abandoning home and country in search of a place
to lead productive lives and experience peace, security, and community?
We might do well to reflect on the transformative power of the cross in
the life of Jesus, his early disciples, and countless Christians over two
MUSINGS FROM THE MARGINS | 81
millennia. This might allow the power of the cross to transform our ways
of living together and give witness to a wounded humanity and planet.
Franciscan Reflection on Crises and Opportunity
In my service as minister general, I have been struck by the difficulties
that arise within the lives of the brothers when confronted with adversi¬
ty. Perhaps it is a sign of the times, but the capacity for brothers to recog¬
nize new opportunities for growth through the experience of suffering,
self-doubt, disappointment (with self and others) seems to be seriously
limited, if not altogether absent. Such experiences include: falling in and
out of love; losing zeal for the evangelical life and for missionary evan¬
gelization; inability to relate in an adult, healthy manner with those in
the service of authority; and the inability to share ones life with broth¬
ers in the same community. In a recent meeting with one brother of the
Order, he informed me that he could no longer live with the brothers
of his local fraternity and that if the provincial did not move him to the
community where he wanted to live—if I as general would not intervene
on his behalf—he would leave the Order. On another occasion, a brother
informed me that, after conducting a serious discernment regarding his
vocation and his future, he had decided he could no longer tolerate the
local guardian and that he would be moving to another fraternity. The
serious discernment consisted of several hours in prayer, talking with
his sister, with a close friend, and even with a priest he never before met.
When I asked him whether he had spoken with his local fraternity or
with the guardian, he informed me that he did not trust any of the broth¬
ers who were all were under the thumb of the ill-willed guardian. I also
asked whether he had spoken with his provincial. He responded that the
provincial “is a weak, old man who does not make any decisions.” If he
actually moved to another fraternity, the provincial would do nothing
except try to “calm the waters after the storm.”
The point of telling these real-life stories is not simply to shock you. If
you have been living the consecrated evangelical life for a period of time,
there is probably nothing that will shock you. The best and the worst of
humanity is on display in our local fraternities/communities. I also do
not relate such stories to suggest that brothers and sisters no longer re¬
spect authority in religious life. Maybe, however, I tell them to confirm
what you already know: the religious life project our founders received
from divine inspiration, a life project to which we are—or are not—
82 | MICHAEL A. PERRY OFM
committed, is in serious trouble. The crises experienced in religious life
should be recognized for what they are, and for what they are not. These
smoking guns are clear signals pointing to the urgent need for us to re¬
vitalize our personal and fraternal/collective lives. Ironically, these crises
can actually fortify us and clarify our understandings of our own lives
and the public commitment we have made, which must be continually
purified and translated into the way we relate to God, to our brothers
and sisters, and to Gods people. They form the quotidian of our lives,
the locus of formation to Franciscan and, indeed, to all religious life.
A recent interview with political commentator and respected speaker
David Brooks considered his 2016 book, 7 he Road to Character. 159 As
Brooks relates in the interview, one of the key building blocks for the
construction of human character is the ability to discover in weakness
the road towards authentic identity. Brooks comments:
Through history, people have gone back into their own
pasts, sometimes to a precious time in their life, to their
childhood. And, often, the mind gravitates in the past to a
moment of shame, something committed, some act of self¬
ishness, a lack of courage...You go into yourself, you find
the sin which youVe committed over and again through
your life, your signature sin out of which the others emerge.
And you fight that sin, and you wrestle with that sin. And
out of that wrestling—that suffering—then, a depth of char¬
acter is constructed. And were often not taught to recognize
the sin in ourselves. And were not taught in this culture how
to wrestle with it, how to confront it and how to combat it. 160
“Out of that wresting—that suffering—then, a depth of character is con¬
structed.” I would like to suggest that one of the most critical aspects of
the formative process (from beginning to end, from postulancy to end
of life) is that of creating a space within our religious fraternities/com¬
munities where we actually help one another learn how to confront the
truth about ourselves, those areas of life requiring further conversion.
Our beautiful formation documents speak loftily about this confronta-
159 David Brooks, The Road to Character (London: Penguin Books, 2016).
160 David Brooks, “Can You Become a Better Person by Confronting Your Worst Self?”
Ted Radio Hour (July 16, 2017) https://www.npr.org/templates/transcript/transcript.
MUSINGS FROM THE MARGINS | 83
tion with self. They speak about the centrality of interpersonal relation¬
ships, for which religious are “experts of communion” 161 These same
documents tell us that communion is the most vital way to giving con¬
crete form to the evangelical counsels and to the quality of our witness
before the world. Still, no matter how much these documents call our at¬
tention to our identity as “a living organism of fraternal communion,” 162
our efforts seem to be frustrated by a serious lack of sustained attention
to, and formation for, interpersonal fraternal living. Many of us struggle
with the forces of individualism present in our fraternities/communi¬
ties and in our work for evangelization. The strong pull of individual¬
ism creates serious difficulties because the individual “I” becomes more
important than the collective “we.” The struggles posed by individualism
are further complicated by a vision of our identity and mission. Conse¬
quently, ministry comes under the spell of a misguided clericalism that
seeks privilege, concentrates power, and progressively excludes others
from fully participating in the lifelong process of building conditions
for the realization of the kingdom of God. In far too many cases in our
religious life, fraternity, collaboration, and communion are pushed to
the margins, leaving the glorified individual at the center. In this same
scenario, even God becomes an unwelcomed stranger.
The three ministers general of the First Order—Capuchins, Conventu¬
als, OFM—spoke about the impact of individualism and clericalism on
all programs of formation (initial and ongoing) and the impact this has
on the discernment process among men coming to join our way of life.
Too many men join with the idea of becoming clerics, using Franciscan
religious life as an instrument for attaining the ultimate goal: priesthood.
The negative consequences of this attitude upon fraternal life and mis¬
sion can be devastating, as some or many of you might already have
experienced. I have often thought about asking the Vatican whether we
could suspend all ordinations in the Order for five years, giving time
for the brothers to focus on developing the central vocation God has
given to us: the call to a radical evangelical life, cultivated and nour¬
ished by prayer, a strong fraternal life, and engagement in the missionary
activities of the church. This last missionary dimension is grounded in
the social doctrine of the Church, in the promotion of integral human
161 Vita consecrata, 46.
162 “Fraternal Life in Community: Congregavit nos in unum Christi amor ” Congregation for In¬
stitutes of Consecrated Life (1994), 2.b.
84 | MICHAEL A. PERRY OFM
development, a new way of speaking about the inseparable relationship
between faith and justice, prayer and peace, and lifelong formation to
the evangelical counsels. Clearly, the missionary dimension will require
us to live among and be formed by those who are poor, excluded, mi¬
grants, all those who are living on the front lines in the struggle for hu¬
man dignity, justice, truth, and reconciliation. 163
Franciscan Religious Life: A Battle for God
What if religious life were not about embracing lofty ideals, and even
less about living a protected, pampered life? Instead, what if it was about
choosing to enter the desert, to embrace human and spiritual battle as
a necessary consequence for having chosen to place ones entire life in
service to God and the kingdom? If we fast forward to the chapters 14
and 15 of Marks Gospel, we are presented with two texts that deal di¬
rectly with the suffering that Jesus willingly embraced as a consequence
of his decision to remain grounded in God, walking toward the king¬
dom. In chapter 14, Jesus has to face the prospect of an ignominious,
violent death. “Abba, Father, for you all things are possible; remove this
cup from me; yet, not what I want, but what you want” (14:36). And in
chapter 15, we are presented with one of the most troubling of memo¬
ries: the cry of Jesus from the cross, one of desperation, confusion, the
sense of having been left all alone to face the consequences of his ulti¬
mate decision to abandon all for the sake of Gods cause, Gods dream.
“Eloi, Eloi, lema sabachthani? My God, my God, why have you forsaken
me?” (15:34). There does not appear to be anything glorious or redemp¬
tive coming from these words of desperation, uncertainty, absolute lone¬
liness, a perfect description for the hell or Gehenna of the biblical texts.
And yet, the cry of Jesus makes sense from within the context of all the
choices he made, the way he lived and shared his life with his disciples
and group of friends and other followers, discovering God and placing
living stones for the temple of the kingdom through a life of evangeli¬
cal nurturing. There is a narrative unity to the life of Jesus, the same
narrative unity we find in the fives of the founders of orders, congrega¬
tions, and religious institutes. God is the author of this book of life, but
Jesus and each of the great charismatic founders were the co-authors.
This co-authorship—this invitation to work with God in the continuing
163 OFM Curia, “Pilgrims and Strangers: Resources for Formation" (Rome: 2008), 23-24, 31-32,
MUSINGS FROM THE MARGINS | 85
elaboration of the unity of our human, spiritual, and Franciscan narra¬
tive—allows us to see the pattern of the divine, the sacred operative in
our lives, most especially when we ourselves are unable or unwilling to
do so. Those moments when we actually step back and behold what God
has been doing in our lives and our world, in our religious communities
among the brothers and sisters, and in and through our feeble efforts to
care for the flock entrusted to our care, we actually catch glimpses into
this narrative unity. Things fit in, although not necessarily all things at
all times. Nevertheless, there is a great possibility that we will even catch
a glimpse of where we are heading, the fulfilment of the promise of Jesus
found in the Gospel of John (10:10): fullness of life, an abundance of
meaning and purpose, the inheritance of a capacity for love greater than
we could ever ask or imagine.
A Personal Story of the Life of a Friar
Recently I spoke with a Franciscan friar who had suffered much at the
hands of the Communists in the former Eastern Bloc countries. He nar¬
rated all forms of deprivation: food, light, heat, being harassed by the
local police force, subjected to physical beatings, and spending extend¬
ed periods of time in prison. What amazed me is not that he survived
these deprivations and difficulties that stretched over many years; what
amazed me was the peace that reigned in his heart. He told me the most
difficult crisis he faced was a crisis of forgiveness and love. Early on in
the experience, he remembers praying for the death of his persecutors.
At some later stage, he remembers being faced with a situation with one
of the very people who had harmed him and who was experiencing chal¬
lenging health issues. Although the friar did not want to help the very
person responsible for harassments, privations, and physical abuse, still
he could not reconcile his refusal to help in light of his being a disciple
of Jesus and a follower of Saint Francis. In the end, the friar helped the
What leaps out from this story are not the heroic actions of a man who
could have chosen to turn his back on the plight of his oppressor. What
emerges from this real-life story it that of a Franciscan religious who
came to an understanding that he was on a lifelong journey. In some
mysterious way, the violence perpetrated by the Communist politician/
police officer was transformed into a powerful spiritual tool for reclaim¬
ing the dignity that the abusers tried to rob from him. In effect, the
86 | MICHAEL A. PERRY OFM
positive response of the Franciscan friar to help his victimizer contrib¬
uted to the further interior healing, which I believe provided him with a
greater capacity to live and to forgive. Life in abundance! One other de¬
tail: this Franciscan is known for his care for the other Franciscans in his
local community, and for his faithful service of care for brothers more
elderly than he: visiting them, encouraging them, sharing his personal
journey with them, inviting them to seek the way of healing, restoration,
and renewal of their vocational commitment to be disciples of the risen
One. This is what St. Paul is speaking about in his letter to the Ephesians:
.. .that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith, as you
are being rooted and grounded in love. I pray that you may
have the power to comprehend, with all the saints, what is
the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know
the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, so that you may
be filled with all the fullness of God (3:17-19).
Talk about a clear understanding of a narrative unity!
Mark 1:13: “He was with the wild beasts; and the angels waited on
One of the most basic human needs is to feel welcomed, recognized, part
of something greater than oneself, loved and nurtured in an environ¬
ment that facilitates growth in all dimensions of life. So, too, with Jesus.
In the midst of the desert—a place normally devoid of life and com¬
panionship—Mark introduces two sets of characters who will provide
spiritual and physical companionship to Jesus during this time out for
purification, for clarification of identity and mission, and for prepara¬
tion for a very different future. Some biblical scholars suggest that the
wild beasts and angels arrived at the last minute, as Jesus was completing
whatever experience was necessary for him to undergo; lets call it his
novitiate. Other scholars argue that—following Marks bias for painting
discipleship in the plural, lived within the context of community—the
wild beasts and angels were present with Jesus throughout the entire
time. For reasons that will become clear, I subscribe to the latter theo¬
MUSINGS FROM THE MARGINS | 87
We believe that Jesus did not undergo his novitiate experience alone. In
Marks theology of discipleship, Jesus is surrounded by wild animals and
messengers of God, the angelic beings who are perceived to be close to
God and close to human beings. For Mark, all discipleship is accompa¬
nied. Whatever stages one might wish to speak of in the early communi¬
ty of Mark—inquiry, catechumenate, illumination, or mystagogic—the
formative experience provided to those who came to Christ was deeply
personal. Its goal was to provide accompaniment to the individual as s/
he drew closer to Christ and to the community of the missionary dis¬
ciples. It was meant to be life changing. It also was meant to create within
the individual a spiritual docility in which their hearts might become
ever more open to Christ speaking in and through his Word; Christ
speaking in and through personal and shared life, and in and through
participation in the sacramental life and mission of the Church. Aidan
Kavanagh states that the rites of Christian initiation, in whatever form
they existed in the early Christian communities, served as “a structure
of Christian nurture.” 164 He argues the need for the Church to recover
this understanding of the conversion process leading the baptized to a
lifetime process of conforming oneself to the mind and heart of Christ.
Nurture as a Permanent Condition for Franciscan Religious Life
The concept and practice of nurture as a foundational element in the
process of Christian initiation finds deep echoes in the thinking and
structures of permanent initiation and ongoing growth into Franciscan
religious life. We have already pointed to one of the key elements of this
process of nurture: accompaniment. Franciscan friars who have been
living in a diversity of intentional Franciscan communities, primarily in
Europe, slowly developed a series of reflections on their experiences of
a qualitatively different way of living their vocation. According to them,
the qualities of these new forms for living Franciscan life revealed these
five elements: 1) cultivation of a life of prayer more explicitly intense and
shared; 2) structuring of frequent occasions for encounter between the
members of the local fraternity/community, allowing for greater shar¬
ing of life; 3) the desire to live in a greater simplicity of life that creates
within the fraternity greater awareness and sensitivity to the plight of
the poor, excluded, marginalized, and suffering; 4) going to the margins
164 Aidan Kavanagh, The Shape of Baptism: The Rite of Christian Initiation (New York: Pueblo,
1978), 182, passim.
88 | MICHAEL A. PERRY OFM
with a clear message of hope, love, mercy, an evangelizing life that is
fundamentally itinerant and not connected to large structures; and 5)
reaching out to laity and collaborating with them in shared projects for
missionary evangelization in new or more traditional forms.
Following a series of bi-annual meetings and working closely with the
OFM General Secretariat for Missions and Evangelization, a group of
friars who were members of one of these intentional fraternities—i.e.,
a new form for Franciscan living—prepared a booklet describing their
experiences. In that work they proposed a series of fundamental quali¬
ties necessary for the nurture of living a more authentic, passionate, and
joy-filled Franciscan life. 165 1 would like to summarize seven values or
characteristics that the friars from these intentional fraternities/commu¬
nities suggest are sine qua non conditions for promoting a greater sense
of, and commitment to, lifelong formation and nurture of the vocation
we have received:
1. the primacy of the life of prayer and listening actively
to the Word of God;
2. care and attention to the nurturing of deep fraternal
bonds that witness to a testimony of the faith life of the
fraternity—the instrument of regular house chapters to
discuss the movement of the Spirit and the quality of re¬
lationships between the brothers assumes a privileged
3. a simple, sober lifestyle witnessing to minority and
total dependence on God and interdependence on the
brothers of the fraternity;
4. extending to all those in need and sharing life and fra¬
ternity with them;
5. participating in the evangelizing mission of the Church
inter genteSy through itinerancy, and seeking to associate
ones life with those who are poor, suffering, excluded,
with a special attention to discovering new frontiers for
165 lie, Nuntiate ... Guidelines for the New Forms of Life and Mission in the Order (2014,
revised 2017), https://ofm.ora/blog/ite-nuntiate-guidelines-for-new-forms-of-life-and-mission-
MUSINGS FROM THE MARGINS | 89
evangelization (e.g., interreligious dialogue and intercul-
6. communion with the local church and collaboration
with the laity; and,
7. openness to working closely together with members of
other branches of the Franciscan family, and with others.
To this list, I would add one further dimension that is vital to the goal
of deeper conversion and the nurturing of a more authentic Franciscan
(consecrated) life: heightened sensitivity to issues of justice, peace, and
the integrity of creation, thus integrating all of the prior seven values
into a vision of full human development, as modeled by Pope Francis in
Evangelii gaudium and Laudato si’.
The process of nurture that Ite, Nuntiate seeks to promote recognizes
that all the brothers are responsible for the care and growth of each an¬
other. The role of the guardian is first to live in fidelity to the life he has
professed. Then he must be open to listening and accompanying each
brother: encouraging them, correcting them, and seeking to promote
opportunities for the growth of each and of all in the fraternity in what
it means to be free in Christ Jesus.
Keep It Simple: The Role of the Quotidian in Revolutionizing the
The context for living these eight central values, which are necessary for
the nurture of our evangelical vocation, “is that of ordinary life in the
local fraternity, inserted into the cultural, social and political world.” 166
Franciscan formation is experienced in the quotidian: in the daily rub¬
bing of shoulders, liturgical celebrations, contributing to the upkeep of
the house, cooking a meal, attending to a sick friar, listen to the brothers,
reaching out to someone who has experienced some tragedy, sharing life
and personal narratives of what God is doing in the lives of each person,
participating in the regular life of the fraternity, and making ourselves
available to each other so that we might become more available to the
Other: God. 167
166 General Secretariat for Formation and Studies, “You Have Been Called to Freedom," Formation
in the Order of Friars Minor (Rome, 2018), no. 25.
167 Vita consecrata, no. 69.
90 | MICHAEL A. PERRY OFM
It is by living a style of life grounded in a spirit of nurturing that one
that gives priority to the normal rather than the exceptional, celebrat¬
ing moments of grace in the small things. These are the ways that we
slowly but deliberatively create conditions for allowing the members of
our fraternities, our provinces, and our Orders to experience God, to
experience their and our humanity, and to nurture the desire to engage
with the world.
We want to welcome new vocations to our specific form of religious life.
Not all would agree, however, that each of our fraternities/ communi¬
ties are living a sufficiently healthy quality of spiritual, human, frater¬
nal, and apostolic life. For this reason, Orders and Congregations cherry
pick those communities where there is some semblance of the living out
of values we profess. Candidates are taken to meet friars living in these
boutique fraternities/communities. The problem, however, is that our
Franciscan life is not about creating boutique fraternities, something
also true for all other forms of religious life. Rather, it is about generating
a desire among all members to want to live daily, in some way or another,
the central values that should guide our personal and communal lives.
The more we are able to create and expand the number of fraternities
founded on the most basic of our evangelical values, the easier it will be
for all of our brothers—especially our younger brothers in initial forma¬
tion—to experience the continuity that should exist between initial and
ongoing formation. Far too often, friars transitioning from the initial
to the permanent stage of formation (i.e., into lifelong formation) dis¬
cover a wide gap between these two formative moments. Borrowing the
London Undergrounds continuous reminders to mind the gap, far too
often religious life cultivates a mentality of those on the journey and
those who have arrived. One friar once sarcastically referred to houses
of initial formation as “fantasy islands.” He added: “We need to teach
them what Franciscan life is like in the real world.” For religious of a
certain temperament, the real world is the place where little is expected
and even less is shared, a place where religious live and die in isolation,
loneliness, apathy, and even bitterness. God is calling all friars and all
religious of the same Order or Congregation to assume our responsibil¬
ity for creating conditions necessary so that we might help one another
continue to choose to welcome God’s gift of our vocation each and every
day as something new and potentially revolutionary: for our lives, our
MUSINGS FROM THE MARGINS | 91
Orders or Congregations, the Church, and the world. It is in this way
that our fraternities will become centers for human and spiritual growth,
a place where we can practice what it means to be alive for the Gospel,
and a place where we can learn new ways to invest ourselves in the life
of the world. We must remember that Jesus goes to Galilee and other
regions once he has welcomed his vocation and taken steps to purify
and deepen it. Jesus reveals a willingness to put into daily practice the
deepening of his vocation—his intimate relationship with the Father—
together with those he called to “follow me” (Mk 1:17; 2:14). It is from
this deep experience of being evangelized that Jesus and the disciples
undertake the mission of preaching and giving witness to the kingdom
of God. Clearly, within the context of the Gospel of Mark, we witness
the difficulties the disciples experienced in trying to understand the full
implications of the vocation each had received and the challenge that
Jesus places before them to “deny themselves and take up their cross and
follow me” (8:33-34).
Called to Live According to the Pattern of the Holy Gospel 168
In 2012, the OFMs initiated a study of the situation of the 13,000 fri¬
ars living in 121 countries in the world. A questionnaire containing 153
questions was forwarded to 1,500 friars who represented the broadest of
age, region, apostolic engagement, culture, and language groups present
in the Order. Ninety-three percent of those who received the question¬
naire responded. More than forty percent of the friar respondents said
that their lives had become dry, that they had run out of gas, and that
their connection with God was weakening. A smaller percentage of fri¬
ars felt their lives were progressively overrun with activities and activism,
producing within them a sense or feeling being, somehow, out of place
in Franciscan and religious life. As a consequence, a similar number of
respondents were concerned by the fact that they felt very little emo¬
tional attachment to their brothers in the local fraternity, the province,
and the Order. Some said they were living on the “fumes of the desire
and experience of intense prayer” that they experienced before joining
the Order or, perhaps, in novitiate.
Stories from some friars about running out of gas and feeling discon¬
nected from the fraternity and values of Franciscan life are also present
168 LR 1.1 = FA:ED 1:100.
92 | MICHAEL A. PERRY OFM
in the reports from Canonical Visitation to the entities of the Order.
We hear about tired, angry, sad, lonely, lone-ranger friars who feel that
their experience of living in a friary/local community is more like liv¬
ing in Hotel St. Francis. They live like a registered guest, consume food
and drink, and have all the comforts necessary for survival. At the same
time, they also do not assume any responsibility for the life of the local
fraternity. They take and take without giving.
Unfortunately, this story applies not only to older OFM members who
perhaps have had a different type of formation for Franciscan religious
life: one that promoted individualism and a mentality of the survival
of the fittest. Even today there are regions of the Order—and I would
venture to say this is true in other Orders and forms of consecrated life—
where the friar/religious lives alone, justifying a lifestyle of individual¬
ism while hiding behind the argument that they are responding to the
needs of the local Church and to the people of God. When I sometimes
speak with the people of God and with the bishops, I hear a very differ¬
ent story. They talk about the lone-ranger religious who listens to no one
and who is always too busy with things that have little to do with meet¬
ing pastoral needs.
In religious life we also must confront situations where friars/religious
spend a great deal of time on personal maintenance: making sure their
world is structured in ways that seldom challenge them to grow, sur¬
rounding themselves with brick and mortar as well as digital barriers,
and expending untold energy acquiring “likes” on their Facebook page.
The net result of these forms of self-maintenance is a distancing from
the fraternity, from the people of God among whom we are called to live
and share good news, and ultimately even from God. The 2012 question¬
naire on the “State of the OFM Order” also documents how hard it is for
religious who are consumed with self-maintenance and creating a safe,
secure, and luxurious environment to imagine that Franciscan evangeli¬
cal life is not about security, stability and ensuing stagnation (as though
there is some implicit fourth vow supporting our preferred lifestyle), al¬
lowing the dream they once received, the vocation they once nurtured,
to die. The words from the song “I Dreamed a Dream” come to mind:
MUSINGS FROM THE MARGINS | 93
I dreamed a dream in time gone by, when hope was high,
and life worth living.
I dreamed that love would never die, I dreamed that God
would be forgiving.
Then I was young and unafraid, and dreams were made
and used and wasted.
There was no ransom to be paid, no song unsung, no wine
But the tigers come at night, with their voices soft as thun¬
As they tear your hope apart, as they turn your dreams to
Recovering the Dream: On Discernment
When I was provincial in St. Louis (11 months of service beginning in
2008), I met with a friar who had been doing the same service in the
province for more than 25 years. I asked him to embark on something
entirely new and different, one requiring that he learn Spanish, share
life with a faith community composed largely of Catholics from Mexico,
and be open to eating the food, drinking the beverages, and enjoying
the sounds of music of the people among whom we have being asked to
go. His first response was that of anger. He asked me: “How could you
take me away from the work I have been doing, doing so well, and from
the life I have built for myself?” This was less a question than an indict¬
ment against my decision to ask him to move on to a new fraternity and
ministry. I explained to him all of the reasons why I thought he was the
right person at the right time for what I believed would become the right
fit for him, for the friars among whom he would live, and also for the
people of God. He asked for time to “discern” his response. A week later,
he came to me and presented a laundry list of motives for not accepting
the change of ministry and fraternity. In the end, he accepted the change,
more out of a sense of obedience to his superior rather welcoming new
opportunities for fraternal living and evangelization, for further growth
for his religious vocation. I met him three years later after moving to
Rome to serve the Order. He came and gave me a big hug. “Thank you! I
did not trust you, nor did I believe the new work and fraternity to where
169 From Les Miserables, original French-language lyrics by Alain Boublil and Jean-Marc Natel
(1980), English language lyrics by Herbert Kretzmer with additional material by James Fenton
(1985); see https://www.azlyrics.eom/l/lesmiserablescast.html .
94 | MICHAEL A. PERRY OFM
I was to be assigned would be good for me. I must tell you, I have never
been happier in my forty years of Franciscan life. The new fraternity and
ministry have opened my eyes to see just how old and self-centered I had
Mark 1:14: “Now after John was arrested, Jesus came to Galilee, pro¬
claiming the good news of God”
The Gospel of Mark concludes the initial stage of Jesuss formation/con¬
version process with movement. For Mark, conversion to Gods king¬
dom agenda is initiated by God, received by the disciple—in this case,
his beloved Son—shared among the disciples with the Master (Rabbi
Jesus), and proclaimed to the world. For the evangelist, the formative
process towards discipleship in the community of Jesus promotes unity
with God, fraternal communion as an expression of this spiritual unity,
and the desire and responsibility to communicate to others the good
news one has received and in which one has placed one’s trust. In each of
the Gospels, an explicit link is made between movement towards God,
towards fellow members on the way (in the community of disciples),
and movement outward towards the world. There is no authentic evan¬
gelization without unity and communion lived with God and among
the disciples. Yet, neither can one come to a deeper understanding of
who God is, and the nature of God’s mission, unless and until we join in
the movement. Each contributes to the completion of the other, leading
to deeper faith and spiritual maturity, and to a deeper understanding
and acceptance of one’s own humanity and that of others. Perhaps it is
for this reasons that the OFMs have discovered the direct link between
fraternity and mission. The documents of the Order speak of all com¬
munities of friars as “Fraternities-in-Mission.” There is no disconnect
between living a radical life of discipleship in Jesus Christ, being a mem¬
ber of the Body of Christ (the Church) and being a member of the Order
of Friars Minor. All converge in the experience of evangelical life when
it is lived as a continuation, a deepening, of the primary call to be mis¬
sionary disciples. 170
The same that can be said about discipleship in the community of Jesus
can also be said about religious life. Movement is absolutely essential
for growth in vocational awareness, for deepening one’s identity, and for
170 EG 24,40, passim.
MUSINGS FROM THE MARGINS | 95
experiencing greater freedom to live the Gospel life with love, peace, and
joy. One might ask, however, “How is this movement to be achieved?”
Here, a healthy dose of creativity, spontaneity, and also risk-taking is
necessary. Programs involving stages or flex mission or overseas train¬
ing programs are helpful instruments. They promote an opening of ones
life to new realities, new cultures, new languages, and thus make a con¬
tribution to increasing ones capacity to live inter-culturally and inter-
These latter two are becoming ever more urgent as religious orders and
congregations take on a more diversified face—welcoming new mem¬
bers from virtually anywhere in the world—and as our provinces (at
least those in the US) continue to experience aging and diminishment.
All these initiatives should be seen as tools vital for lifelong formation.
No age requirements hold; all are welcome to apply!
True evangelical movement involves linking our lives to that of Jesus,
to the lives of the poor and marginalized, 171 to the Church, and to fel¬
low religious. This movement opens our horizons to new possibilities
for living the Gospel and the evangelical counsels with a new freedom,
the freedom to love of which St. Paul speaks (Gal 5:13). This is precisely
what Pope Francis has in mind by insisting on the need for the Church,
for all disciples, and for us religious, to “go out” (Lat., uscire) to become
a missionary community of God in service to all of humanity and to
creation. He writes:
I prefer a Church which is bruised, hurting and dirty be¬
cause it has been out on the streets, rather than a Church
which is unhealthy from being confined and from clinging
to its own security. I do not want a Church concerned with
being at the centre and which then ends by being caught up
in a web of obsessions and procedures. If something should
rightly disturb us and trouble our consciences, it is the fact
that so many of our brothers and sisters are living without
the strength, light and consolation born of friendship with
Jesus Christ, without a community of faith to support them,
without meaning and a goal in life. More than by fear of go¬
ing astray, my hope is that we will be moved by the fear of
171 cf. EG 179ff.
96 | MICHAEL A. PERRY OFM
remaining shut up within structures which give us a false
sense of security, within rules which make us harsh judges,
within habits which make us feel safe, while at our door peo¬
ple are starving and Jesus does not tire of saying to us: “Give
them something to eat .” 172
Conclusion: On “Waking Up the World”
There are, admittedly, at least four shortcomings in what I have tried to
share with you. First, I have formulated many of my reflections bearing
in mind the members of the Order of Friars Minor for whom I bear
a special responsibility. I also had in mind my brother Capuchins and
Conventuals with whom I share both an effective and affective affin¬
ity and charismatic identity. My intention was not to exclude any other
of the Franciscan groups present and with whom I share a close affin¬
ity. Rather, I sought to talk about something I think I know something
about, without inventing or projecting images about Franciscan groups
of which I know very little. Still, I believe that many elements that ap¬
ply to the OFMs and other members of the First Order and TOR also
find resonance in the lived experience of other religious congregations
Second, much of the language used by the Church and by our respective
Orders and Congregations, formulated in Ratio formationis documents,
focuses attention not only on the theological, spiritual, and ecclesial
dimensions of formation to religious life, but also provides a series of
recommendations for how to promote lifelong conversion, which is the
goal of all formation to religious life. Rather than simply repeating what
is contained in these documents, I have opted to risk directly engaging
with the events and theological significance of Jesuss lifelong conversion
to the mission of Gods kingdom presented by the evangelist Mark, and
to which I have added my own creative flair. The reason I have taken this
approach is that I am convinced the seeds or essential elements for un¬
derstanding the mission, scope, and methods for life formation towards
union with God, with the brothers and all other human beings, and with
all of creation, are present in the opening chapter of the Gospel of St.
Mark. If I were accustomed to act in a more classical manner (which I
am not), I probably would have taken the image of the Transfiguration
172 EG 49.
MUSINGS FROM THE MARGINS I 97
that guides St. John Paul Us reflection on the meaning and mission of
religious life. 173 Mea culpa! It also is a valid reflection and opens to us
other insights into the mystery of vocation and lifelong formation.
My third shortcoming is that I have opted not to include in this presen¬
tation issues related to sexual abuse of minors and vulnerable peoples for
the simple reason that it merits a particular attention that goes beyond
the scope of the time allotted to me at this symposium. Our public com¬
mitment to the evangelical counsels and our search for integrity of life
and mission require that we give specific attention to life-long formation
for responsible living, as a matter of faith and justice. Thus, all programs
of formation should contain tools and methods for helping each of us in¬
tegrate our sexuality and affective needs in a way that promotes healthy,
holistic relationships among the members of our respective orders and
congregations, and in all of our relationships that are created and nur¬
tured through our missionary, apostolic activities.
A fourth shortcoming is my regret that my thoughts and recommenda¬
tions might not be bold enough to help us move in a direction that not
only responds to the call of Pope Francis to “Wake up the world,” 174 but
that will actually convince us that in order to be passionate and faithful
missionary disciples, we must embrace a way of living the Gospel. Such
a Gospel living can render our hearts malleable, revitalize the quality of
interpersonal relationships—including a quality fraternal experience of
life that is life-giving—and transform our missionary outreach into a
collaborative, two-by-two experience capable of reflecting a model of
discipleship that is forged on the road of daily shared life.
At the last OFM General Chapter (2015), a number of brothers from
entities in Latin America brought forth a proposal seeking to include in
our General Statutes a recommendation that, where possible, our houses
of initial formation (including novitiate) be located in neighborhoods
where the inhabitants experience all forms of exclusion, deprivation,
poverty, violence, and dehumanization. The motive behind this pro¬
posal was not based exclusively on the evangelical value of poverty and
the promotion of simplicity of life in response to our charism and the
call of Pope Francis for religious to embrace the way of the poor Christ
173 Cf. his Vita consecrata.
174 Pope Francis’s meeting with the Union of Superiors General, 29 November 2013, as reported
at https://zenit.org/articles/pope-religious-must-wake-up-the-world/ .
98 | MICHAEL A. PERRY OFM
by association with those who are excluded, although this certainly had
some influence. Rather, the brothers call to move formation houses to
the margins was an invitation to radicalize our way of life and systems
of formation, further enabling the young candidates, novices, and tem¬
porary professed to be afforded an experience of coming to a deeper
awareness of their dependence on God alone, and interdependence on
the brothers of the local fraternity, Province/entity, and Order. Person¬
ally, I welcome such initiatives on condition that all the brothers of such
a province or entity accompany and invest in such a move. It is one thing
to send young lambs to the slaughter. It is another to send the fatted
In whatever direction our efforts take us, I remain convinced that we
can change the way we think about the formative conversion process in
which all of us are engaged. We can find new and more effective ways to
promote the active participation of all our fellow religious/friars in giv¬
ing specific shape and content to this process. Furthermore, we can help
one another discover and articulate the narrative unity that gives shape
to our identity, offering redemptive possibilities to the way of life we
have received as gift from God to which we are willing to commit all of
our energies, in the best and the worst of times. Perhaps when we have
done all we can to move ourselves in these directions, placing the cruci¬
fied Lord Jesus at the center, we will discover that in fact, we already are
acting as witnesses of a different way of doing things, of acting, of living!
I still dream the dream! Do you?
Stewarding the Grace of
Margaret Eletta Guider OSF
And after the Lord gave me some brothers y no one showed me
what I had to do , but the Most High Himself revealed to me
that I should live according to the pattern of the Gospel. 175
T he presentation that I was invited to give was entitled “Mission
through the lens of evangelization.” The presentation was to be
guided by the question: “How does evangelization prod us to listen
and respond to the world?” But the more I thought about it the more I
realized the following: Good title. Good question. But... before we talk
about mission and evangelization, some prior reflection on brotherhood
is in order.
As I pondered the words of the Testament , I became attentive to the fact
that it was only after the Lord gave brothers to Francis that the Most
High God revealed to him that he should live according to a form of
life based on the Gospel. His experience of call did not unfold as many
might think: commitment to the evangelical life first, and relationship
with the brothers second.
Informed by this insight, I realized that perhaps a more adequate and ap¬
propriate way to reflect upon your participation in Gods mission—the
missio Dei —is not through the lens of evangelization, but rather, through
the lens of brotherhood or to be more precise the grace of fraternitas
that uniquely Franciscan missionary charism of “being brothers” in the
Church and the World.
175 Test 14 = FA:ED 1:125.
100 I MARGARET ELETTA GUIDER OSF
We know from The Testament that Francis received this grace of fraterni-
tas. We also know that he stewarded this grace in the company of those
he embraced as brothers in times of exuberant joy and in times profound
grief. For Francis, both in the best of times and in the worst, fraternitas
was the foundation for living the evangelical life. As the Jesuits would
say: it was his way of proceeding in the service of Gods mission.
And What About You? Disposing Yourselves to the Grace of Frater¬
Following the example of the General Minister, my Franciscan brother
and my former classmate, Michael Perry, I, too, will turn to Scripture
as a starting point for reflection. [On this occasion of Catholic Theo¬
logical Unions fiftieth anniversary, this is definitely a hallmark of our
shared CTU formation for mission]. Mindful of the Parable of the Tal¬
ents, always a thought-provoking point of reference from the Gospel of
Matthew (Mt 25:14-30), I invite you to take a few moments to think
about the three servants as examples of stewardship particularly for you
as brothers upon whom the grace of fraternitas —the charism of broth¬
erhood—has been, is, and will continue to be poured out through the
Spirit s holy manner of working.
There are those servants who are faithful, yet fearful about losing the
little they have been given and overly cautious to their own detriment.
There are those servants who are creative, doubling the portion that they
have received, but ever conscious of being endowed with less than oth¬
ers. And, there are those servants who, in their exercise of fidelity and
creativity with what they have been given and what they have received,
are neither afraid of risk-taking nor constrained by the human tendency
to be diminished by comparisons.
However, before you start identifying with one of the three examples
individually—in terms of yourself or collectively—in terms of the fra¬
ternity to which you belong, I urge you to consider what these examples
reveal about the interactive dynamics of stewardship and the ways in
which the grace of fraternitas —no matter in what measure it is divinely
given or humanly received—is buried, doubled, or quintupled.
STEWARDING THE GRACE OF FRATERNITAS I 101
Setting the Grace(s) of Fraternitas at the Service of God’s Mission
Drawing upon the writings of St. Bonaventure on grace, I invite you to
consider the following passage: “Therefore, if you wish to have the love
of the Son and of the originating Principle, and of the Gift that is the
Holy Spirit, dispose yourself for grace? Bonaventure then goes on to ques¬
tion: “ Whence does grace take its origins?” And in response to the ques¬
tion, he answers: “I say that it has its beginning with the Father of lights,
through the incarnate Word, through the crucified Word, and through
the inspired Word.” 176
Taking these insights from Bonaventure as a framework for reflection,
I would like to explore three ways in which the grace of fraternitas —
as experienced in the life and witness of Francis of Assisi and in your
own—may be understood as an extraordinary charism given for ser¬
vice in Gods mission. To the extent that every brother—by virtue of his
profession—disposes himself to this grace of fraternitas each one must
render a response to the generative question that I put before you today:
What kind of stewards of this grace of fraternitas have you been? What
kind of stewards are you now?
And perhaps, most importantly, what kind of stewards of this grace do
you desire to become as together you contemplate not only your respec¬
tive presence in the service of Gods mission but your shared future, a
future that is unfolding right here, right now? “Behold,” says the Lord, “I
am doing something new! Now it springs forth, do you not perceive it?”
(Is 43:19) Since I have raised these questions, it is only fair that I offer
some ways of approaching them.
Returning to Bonaventures insights, I propose the following framework
The Grace of fraternitas and the Incarnate Word: The Evangelizing Mis¬
sion of Being Open to the New
The Grace of fraternitas and the Crucified Word: The Evangelizing Mis¬
sion of Confronting the Mystery of Evil
176 St. Bonaventure, Collations on the Seven Gifts of the Holy Spirit, intro, and trans. by Zachary
Hayes, notes by Robert J. Karris (St. Bonaventure, NY: Franciscan Institute Publication, 2008)
102 | MARGARET ELETTA GUIDER OSF
The Grace of fraternitas and the Inspired Word: The Evangelizing Mis¬
sion of Ultimate Formation for the Sake of the Reign of God
I. The Grace of Fraternitas and the Incarnate Word: Embracing the
Mystery of God and the Evangelizing Mission of Being Open to the
“Every Christian is a missionary to the extent that he or she has en¬
countered the love of God in Christ Jesus: We no longer say that we are
‘disciples and missionaries’ but rather that we are always missionary
disciples”’ 177 When it comes to using the language of “mission” and ar¬
riving at a precise definition of the term, it seems there are as many ways
as there are desires.
For our purposes today, it is my understanding that the term “mission”
does not refer to something the Church does or something that Francis¬
cans do. Rather, the word “mission” refers to the very being of God—the
Triune God who is God-for-Us. 178 Mission understood in this Trinitar¬
ian sense originates in the missio Dei : Gods mission.
As the mystery of the God is revealed in the sending of the Son to be
God-with-Us 179 so, too, the grace of fraternitas is revealed in the Incar¬
nate Word, as Jesus, our Brother (Heb 2:10-18).
As bearers of the divine image and likeness, we are called to participate
in Gods mission, ever mindful of the fact that our God is a God who
acts in history. As participants in Gods mission we, too, are called to act
in history as disciples of Jesus Christ and as missionaries gifted by the
Spirit and sent to proclaim Gods Word as a “community of missionary
As a protagonist of missionary discipleship, Pope Francis has made the
concept a hallmark of his papacy and a source of inspiration for engaging
the missiological imagination of local churches throughout the world.
Mindful of the signs of the times, Pope Francis has emphasized the criti¬
cal importance of specific aspects of formation in the lives of missionary
177 EG 120.
178 See Catherine Mowry LaCugna, God for Us: The Trinity and Christian Life (New York: Harp-
179 Cf. Jn 1:14; Is 7:14; Mt 1:23.
180 EG 24.
STEWARDING THE GRACE OF FRATERNITAS I 103
disciples: to embrace a vocational identity, to experience a grace-filled
sense of purpose, and to sustain a passionate commitment to sharing the
Gospel of Jesus Christ with the world through the evangelizing mission
of presence and encounter characterized by joy.
As brothers responding to the call to participate in Gods mission you
have been challenged by your own documents as well as countless eccle-
sial documents to consider the ways in which your ministries of pres¬
ence and encounter must be at the heart of your particular witness to
the Gospel. By way of one concrete example, I encourage you to think
about the young women you have accompanied in the discovery of their
Franciscan hearts and their vocations as missionary disciples through
FrancisCorps, Franciscan Mission Service, and Cap Corps. Over the
years, I have had the privilege of teaching some of them. I am conscious
of the fact that joining a congregation like my own, of which I am one
of the younger members in North America, holds little attraction or ap¬
peal. Moreover, their primary bonds of Franciscan affection are with
you—with your provinces, your friars, your histories, and your particu¬
lar charisms: charisms that they know and love and with which they
As the Synod on Youth, Vocation and Discernment concludes this week,
we are all urged to think about vocations to Franciscan-Clarean life in
the United States and other places in the world. With this in mind, I
ask you to think about the initiative of Francis on Clares behalf, and
similarly, about the initiative of Friar Pamfilo of Magliano in the 1850s
as he facilitated entrance into Franciscan life for a few young women
who later became the Allegany Franciscans, and a few other young im¬
migrant women who later became the Joliet Franciscans. He took a risk
and opened himself to the new. Might you consider doing something
similar? Returning to Italy a few years later, Father Pamfilo trusted that
these foundations were not his work, but the work of the Spirit. He did
what was his to do. And, he trusted that God would act.
A century later, quite by chance and more work of the Spirit, these two
congregations would meet in Goias, Brazil, to embark on something
new—not alone, but in the company of friars from the Holy Name Prov¬
ince, the Society of the Atonement, the Poor Clares from Wappinger
Falls, New York, the Sisters of the Sorrowful Mother from Wisconsin,
the Franciscan Sisters of the Poor from Ohio, the Franciscan Sisters of
104 | MARGARET ELETTA GUIDER OSF
St. Joseph from Hamburg, New York, and an OFS diocesan priest from
Camden, New Jersey, formed by the TOR friars in Pennsylvania. To¬
gether they found themselves involved in an evangelizing mission of
presence and encounter. 181 Over time, that has given rise to new com¬
munities, monasteries, and provinces in Brazil. Amidst the life processes
of beginnings and endings, of flourishing and completion, of legacy and
leave-taking, this history underscores one intuition and imperative:
You must be open to the new!
The new that awaits you, like the Reign of God, is already in your midst.
It is both “already” and “not yet.” When it comes to embracing the new
that God places before you, consider how many times in the course of
your life you have pondered the words from the Prophet Isaiah 55:8-
9—“For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my
ways, declares our God. As the heavens are higher than the earth, so
are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts higher than your
thoughts.” When these words, like ardent pieces of charcoal, were placed
not on the tongue of the prophet Isaiah, he knew in his heart, that our
Most High God was not kidding. How long have you been following Je¬
sus on the way, “and you still do not know me?” (Jn 14:9) “New” means
new, not just an updated version of something old!
II. The Grace of Fraternitas and the Crucified Word: The Evangeliz¬
ing Mission of Confronting the Mystery of Evil
“Go rebuild My house; as you see, it is all being destroyed.” 182 What does
it mean for you as brothers to break open the Crucified Word of God,
to confront the mystery of evil, and make meaning of its significance for
your lives and the lives of others?
Last year, I met with one of my former students, who now is in a position
of leadership within his religious institute. At the time he was dealing
with the ongoing consequences of the sexual abuse crisis that were af¬
fecting his own congregation directly. He said to me, “This is something
for which you never prepared me.” For days, I pondered his words. He
was correct. Rarely was reflection on the mysterium iniquitatis a part of
181 Margaret Eletta Guider, “U.S. Franciscan Missionaries in Goias, Brazil (1943-2013): Leave-
Taking and Legacy” ACHA Annual Meeting, Washington, DC, January 4, 2014.
182 2C, First Book, IV. 10 = FA:ED 11:249.
STEWARDING THE GRACE OF FRATERNITAS I 105
the curriculum. As witnesses to the tragic consequences and unrelent¬
ing aftershocks of the phenomenon of abuse you know all too well the
countless ways in which this mysterium iniquitatis continues to run its
Indeed, it is a soul-devouring dragon (Rev 12:17) that has yet to be slain
or definitively tamed, a beast that continues to be stronger than the chains
put in place to bind it, a nefarious force that vomits raging torrents of
life-threatening waters throughout the earth. Yet, as we know from the
Book of Revelation, the soul-devouring dragon of the apocalyptic vi¬
sion is not slain, chained, or tamed by human forces. We know how the
story ends and that ultimately the power of heaven prevails (Rev 20:10).
A vision of a new heaven earth is revealed, and with it, the promise that
God is with Gods people, promising to wipe every tear from their eyes,
promising that there will be no more death or mourning, or crying or
pain, for the former things have passed away (Rev 2:3-4). For all of those
affected by the phenomenon of sexual abuse in whatever form, living
this new vision may seem impossible as the anguished question ‘Where
is God?’ continues to echo in the minds and hearts of so many. For those
of you entrusted with the responsibility for forming a new generation of
brothers to serve the People of God, it is essential that you accompany
them in the process of learning to live with this haunting question and
with the dangerous memories that gave rise to it. At the same time, you
also must create the conditions that will enable them to find the river, the
water, the tree of life, with all of its fruits, and especially its leaves (Rev
22:1-2), that they may be the brothers the People of God need— and
Indeed, the Crucified Word invites you to do more than see and judge; it
requires you to act, to make connections, and to put into practice what
you say you believe: that participation in Gods mission is central to your
lives, that every vocation involves the cost of discipleship, and that every
abuse of power, including the power to neglect, is a failure to adhere to
the prophetic example of Jesus for whom power is rightly understood as
the service of love.
183 Margaret Eletta Guider, Conclusao do “O Dragao Devorador de Almas," in Forma^ao: De-
safios Morals, ed. Ronaldo Zacharias, et al. (Sao Paulo: Paulus, 2018), 279. [English translation:
Conclusion of “The Soul-devouring Dragon ”]
106 | MARGARET ELETTA GUIDER OSF
As Pope Francis frequently reminds us all, the vocation of the mis¬
sionary disciple is demanding. Inevitably, it involves the experience of
having to recognize, shoulder, and carry the weight of reality, 184 to be
witnesses, and if necessary, martyrs, to be messengers of reality, 185 and
ambassadors of reconciliation (2 Cor 5:11-21), 186 especially in circum¬
stances where peoples confidence in God and others has been eroded by
an overwhelming sense of affliction.
And yet, amidst the shadows and darkness inherent in the vocation of
the missionary disciple, is the capacity to identify with the person of
Jesus Christ, and to know through our experiences of encounter with
the divine presence, that despite all evidence to the contrary, you are
not alone. The Most High God has given you brothers. For our God, in
whose image and likeness we have been created, is a God who truly is
God-With-Us. And, herein lies the mystery of what it means to imitate
Christ, and to follow in the footsteps of the One who is willing to share
in the sufferings of others for the sake of love. Faced as you may be with
the dangerous memories of the past, uncertainties about the present, and
anxieties about the future, do you as brothers strengthen and encourage
one another to place your trust in the One who has called you by name?
How does the grace of fraternitas enable you to find the courage and
humility needed to remain steadfast in your confidence in Gods grace
and mercy so that you may be witnesses to truth and ambassadors of
III. The Grace of Fraternitas and the Inspired Word: The Evangelizing
Mission of Ultimate Formation for the Sake of the Reign of God
When was the first time that you passionately proclaimed: “This is what I
want ... this is what I seek , this is what I desire with all my heart"? 187 And
now for my second question: When was the most recent time? As broth¬
ers, you live in an expansive present where witnesses to the Gospel Way
184 See Kevin F. Burke, The Ground beneath the Cross: The Theology of Ignacio Ellacuria (Washing¬
ton, DC: Georgetown University Press, 2000), 127.
185 See Michael E. Lee, Revolutionary Saint: The Theological Legacy of Oscar Romero (Maryknoll:
Orbis, 2018), 159-161.
186 See Robert J. Schreiter, The Ministry of Reconciliation: Spirituality and Strategies (Maryknoll:
187 1C IX:22 = FA:ED 1:201-202.
STEWARDING THE GRACE OF FRATERNITAS I 107
of life and Franciscan participation in Gods mission are needed more
Your unfolding future carries with it one guarantee: with every day that
passes you are one step closer to completing your journey home to God.
Mindful of that fact, here is a question that I ask you to hold in your
hearts today: What time is it? The answer is a simple yet challenging one:
It is time to wake up and wake up the world.
At the beginning of your Franciscan journey as brothers, you were in¬
vited into a process of so-called initial formation, followed by a process
of so-called ongoing formation, for life in mission: prayer, fraternity, and
ministry. But when was the last time you heard a brother speak of “ulti¬
mate formation” for the sake of the Reign of God? When Bonaventure
ascended the mountain of La Verna, where he wrote The Souls Journey
into God, 188 he was not laying out a thirteenth-century step-by-step Trip-
Tik or providing a medieval GPS mapping to assist souls in finding their
way home to God. Rather, he was affirming that our life is an ascent to
God, a process that is not something we are able to undertake, control,
or bring to completion on our own—“God must pull you up.” 189 And
you, for your part, must be open to the graces and demands of this being
pulled up (Mt 14:22-33), precisely by remembering those experiences
that are foundational to your ultimate formation for the missio Dei.
As those brothers who have gone before you in faith know from the van¬
tage point of eternity, the journey of union with God cannot be under¬
stood narrowly as the end-of-life journey in service of Gods Mission.
Rather, it must be understood for what it truly is—a daring journey in
service of Gods Mission that requires you to live with eyes wide open,
to live joyfully and hopefully as you move throughout life, regardless of
whether you are in the first or second chapter of your lives or moving
into the third and fourth chapters. For those who may be wondering
“When exactly does this leg of the journey begin?” I would say that the
experience of ultimate formation in service of Gods Mission begins the
day that you recognize by divine inspiration that you are one day closer
188 Bonaventure—The Souls Journey into God, The Tree of Life, The Life of St. Francis, trans. and
intro by Ewert Cousins, pref. by Ignatius Brady (Mahwah, NJ: Paulist Press, 1978), 51-116.
189 Benedict XVI, “Love Sees Further Than Reason,” catechesis given in Rome, 17 March 2010,
108 | MARGARET ELETTA GUIDER OSF
to bringing to completion all that has been and all that continues to be
yours to do.
Ultimate formation for service in Gods mission involves remembering
that you have come from God and preparing yourselves for your return
to God. It involves the kind of intentionality, watchfulness, trust, desire,
joy, and intimacy that leads to ever deeper love.
In sum, it involves remaining attentive to the many ways in which God is
pulling you up to ever greater participation in the missio Dei and draw¬
ing you into an experience of ever deeper union—with the One whom
you seek, the One in whom you hope, the One for whom you long, the
One through whom you rise, the One you receive, the One in whom you
exalt, and the One to whom you finally cling. 190
As brothers of the First Order and the Third Order Regular, do not un¬
derestimate how much your common witness is needed by the entire
Franciscan-Clarean family. Not only is it critical to your futures, it is crit¬
ical to all our futures. May you remain attentive to the Incarnate Word,
the Crucified Word, and the Inspired Word. May you be enchanted by
the wonder of life and possibility, transformed by the pathos of human
suffering and vulnerability, and moved by the power of divine inspira¬
And may your inner capacity to receive the grace of fraternitas continue
to be stretched and enlarged as you cultivate—across the life span—a
genuine desire to steward in faithful and creative ways this grace of fra¬
ternitas in the service of Gods mission.
190 Adapted from Saint Bonaventure, The Enkindling of Love (The Triple Way), III.C.8, ed. by Wil¬
liam I. Joffe (Paterson, NJ: St. Anthony Guild Press, 1956).
Liquidity and the Abyss:
Formation for U.S. Franciscans
Daniel P. Horan OFM
I am grateful for the opportunity to speak at this important event in
which we explore together themes relating to lifelong formation for
Franciscan men within the particular context of the United States.
While our respective branches on the Franciscan family tree may look
from the outside to vary one from the next, reflecting certain variations
in habit and constitution, the core of our shared vita evangelica (“Gospel
Life”) and the lifeblood that flows like sap throughout is the very same
shared tradition launched by Francis and Clare of Assisi eight centuries
ago, which serves to maintain our diverse unity.
When invited to present some points of reflection with you today, I
was told two key things. First, I should focus on the theological trends,
challenges, and hopes of our time that are perhaps overlooked in many
formation settings (and even some academic ones) and yet ought to be
recognized and attended to by Franciscans today. Second, I was to keep
my remarks to around twenty-five minutes. Period. Both of these are
formidable requests; the latter may, in fact, be the more difficult.
Given the time constraints, I have organized my remarks into two ma¬
jor parts. Part One is a look at our contemporary context, as well as the
social and theological landscape. It is, as it were, an exercise in naming
the “signs of the times” as Gaudium et spes describes 191 it or the initial
seeing or recognition step of the “See, Judge, Act” methodology outlined
191 GS 4.
110 I DANIEL P. HORAN OFM
by John XXIII in Mater et magistra. 192 Part Two is where I name two
particular theological themes that I see largely unaddressed today and
propose them to you as loci for lifelong Franciscan formation. These two
themes are not meant to be exclusive but are presented as illustrations
of pressing theological questions that we ought to recognize, name, and
begin to address from within our particular Franciscan tradition. It is
my hope that our processing and discussion of these questions might
lead to further emphasis on these and similar topics as we move forward.
The Context of Now: Liquidity, the Abyss, and the Decolonial Turn
The Second Vatican Councils “Pastoral Constitution on the Church in
the Modern World” (Gaudium et spes) identified a central task of Chris¬
tian discipleship, stating: “The Church has always had the duty of scruti¬
nizing the signs of the times and of interpreting them in the light of the
Gospel.” 193 This activity, described famously by John XXIII as the seeing
or perceiving act of the reduction of theological principles to pragmatic
action, requires that we take a clear and sober look at what I will call the
context of now. Gaudium et spes further explains this urgent dimension:
In language intelligible to every generation, [the church]
should be able to answer the ever recurring questions which
people ask about the meaning of this present life and of the
life to come, and how one is related to the other. We must be
aware of and understand the aspirations, the yearnings, and
the often dramatic features of the world in which we live. 194
In other words, it is necessary for us to make sense of the context in
which the Franciscan family now stands in order to understand any¬
thing about the theological themes that we must consider. This is where
I draw on the metaphorical imagery of “liquidity” and “the abyss.”
It has become customary throughout the second half of the twentieth
century to describe our historical, intellectual, and cultural milieus as
192 John XXIII, Mater et magistra. On Christianity and Social Progress (15 May 1961), online at:
http://w2.vatican.va/content/iohn-xxiii/en/encyclicals/documents/hf i-xxiii enc 15051961
mater.html . For more on the origins of the see-judge-act methodology, pioneered by Joseph
Cardinal Cardijn, see Justin Sands, “Introducing Cardinal Cardijns See-Judge-Act as an In¬
terdisciplinary Method to Move Theory into Practice,” Religions 9 (2018), https://www.mdpi.
193 GS 4.
194 GS 4.
LIQUIDITY AND THE ABYSS | Ill
postmodern. The term—admittedly ambiguous or at least without a
consensus definition—sought to capture the fractured nature of our in¬
dividual and collective identities. It is marked by what the French philos¬
opher and sociologist Jean-Fran^ois Lyotard (d. 1998) famously summa¬
rized as a general “incredulity towards metanarratives.” 195 While perhaps
useful as a delimiter of epochal time, the term “postmodern” has come
under scrutiny by various thinkers for its inherent ambiguity. At the turn
of the twenty-first century, the Polish sociologist Zygmunt Bauman (d.
2017) proposed another descriptor for the context of now. 196 He called it
Drawing on the standard states of matter as classically defined by natural
science, Bauman noted that the modern era (marked by the so-called
turn to the subject, celebrating the triumph of reason and science, and
narrating a telos of human progress) was best likened to a solid. Solids
are stable, static, unchanging, hold their shape under stress, are immo¬
bile, and permanent. By contrast, the age in which we find ourselves is
less “post-modern,” Bauman contends, because we are in many ways still
living in the shadow of modernity and exist within the reality that was
understood to be more solid or frozen. What we experience now is the
melting of that stalwart modernity. As Bauman explains, “‘fluidity’ or ‘li¬
quidity’ [are] fitting metaphors when we wish to grasp the nature of the
present, in many ways novel , phase in the history of modernity.” 197 Bau¬
man contends that early modernity is best understood as that time and
effort in which earlier melting of standard metanarratives and cultural
presuppositions were accomplished in order to make room for replace¬
ments that were intended to be even more solid, integrative, and lasting.
What distinguishes our time—that of liquid modernity—is that the “task
195 See Jean-Fran^ois Lyotard, The Postmodern Condition: A Report on Knowledge, trans. Geoff
Bennington and Brian Massumi (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1984).
196 As with any public intellectual, the late Professor Bauman is not without his critics, both in¬
tellectual and personal. Regarding the latter, it is worth noting that some have taken issue with
Baumans admission of participating as a bureaucrat in the Communist Government of Poland
as a young man. While not wishing to make a personal judgment about the quality of Baumans
character or political affiliations, I do want to acknowledge this rather public aspect of his early
adult life. For more on his biography, see Vanessa Gera, “Zygmunt Bauman, Sociologist Who
Wrote Identity in the Modern World, Dies at 91,” Associated Press (January 9, 2017), online at:
in-the-modern-world-dies-at-91/2017/0!/09/ba6f82 Ie-d6b2-11 e6-b8b2-cb5164beba6b story.
197 Zygmunt Bauman, Liquid Modernity (Cambridge: Polity Press, 2000), 2.
112 | DANIEL P. HORAN OFM
of constructing new and better order to replace the old and defective one
is not presently on the agenda” Bauman goes on to explain:
The “melting of solids,” the permanent feature of modernity,
has therefore acquired a new meaning, and above all has
been redirected to a new target—one of the paramount ef¬
fects of that redirection being the dissolution offerees which
could keep the question of order and system on the politi¬
cal agenda. The solids whose turn has come to be thrown
into the melting pot and which are in the process of being
melted at the present time, the time of fluid modernity, are
the bonds which interlock individual choices in collective
projects and actions—the patterns of communication and
co-ordination between individually conducted life policies
on the one hand and the political actions of human collec¬
tivities on the other. 198
The sense of our liquid times—that which bears the weight of history
and time and space, but slips through our proverbial fingers when we
attempt to grasp it firmly—is one felt by women and men around the
world in various ways as a result of the increased globalization. The ef¬
fects of globalization are not universally experienced singularly, for there
are perceptible gaps between the economic, political, cultural, and eccle-
sial winners and losers. Nevertheless, the de-solidification of our con¬
texts is, to some degree, a widespread phenomenon of our time.
So, what does this mean? Bauman suggests that, among other features,
“These days patterns and configurations are no longer given,’ let alone
self-evident’; there are just too many of them, clashing with one an¬
other and contradicting one another’s commandments, so that each one
has been stripped of a good deal of compelling, coercively constrain¬
ing powers.” 199 In some instances, the liquidity of our modern age is ex¬
perienced in the form of that perennial ecclesial boogeyman known as
relativism. Most often, it simply means that identities, cultures, mean¬
ing, value, and grounding are not presupposed or axiomatic. Whereas
Karl Rahner (d. 1984) described early modernity as like a wintry season,
we might argue with Bauman that our context is now more akin to a
rainy season, or even a monsoon.” Meaning-making in liquid modernity
198 Bauman, Liquid Modernity, 6.
199 Bauman, Liquid Modernity, 7.
LIQUIDITY AND THE ABYSS | 113
means always being in flux, not keeping shape for very long and subject
to revision, especially in the wake of fast-paced technological, scientific
discovery and near-instantaneous global communications.
If liquidity most readily describes the condition of our modern era and
contemporary context, then I believe that the image of the abyss best
describes the challenge before us theologically. The image of abyss is a
deeply theological concept that finds its scriptural origin in Genesis 1:2
with the naming of the tehom over which the divine Ruach Elohim draws
near at the outset of creation. Within that primordial context, there is
chaos and uncertainty, disorder and confusion, lack of future and yet
infinite potential. So too, our modern context—liquid as it may be—is
distinguished by rapid change, chaos, uncertainty, the unknown, and yet
it bears unknown potential. Theologian An Yountae (currently on the
faculty at California State University, Northridge) reminds us that the
image of the abyss is not merely raw chaos, but it “also becomes the
womb of creative potential.” 200 1 believe the language of the abyss is both
descriptive and diagnostic for the enterprise of doing theology today.
Descriptively, there is, in fact, a gap or abyss between the reality of the
lived experiences of most women and men in the world—including
those within the Franciscan family—and the way that theological reflec¬
tion has proceeded without prejudice from the shift from early moderni¬
ty to its current liquid state. In other words, because so much of theology
is presented as if the solid foundations of modernity have not melted and
metanarratives remain axiomatic, there is a real impasse between what
rises as the truly pressing theological and pastoral concerns of our time
and the way we often articulate the faith. To borrow an apt set of catego¬
ries from the Jesuit theologian Bernard Lonergan (d. 1984), too much
of the way theology is understood and passed down within the tradi¬
tion is in the classicist mode and does not adequately take into account
historical consciousness. 201 A classicist world-view is a black-and-white
way of approaching reality, seeking timeless, simple, and static answers
to complex questions that deserve a more robust and nuanced response.
Historical-Mindedness, on the other hand, is a handy term to denote
200 An Yountae, The Decolonial Abyss: Mysticism and Cosmopolitics from the Ruins (New York:
Fordham University Press, 2017), 11.
201 See Bernard Lonergan, “The Transition from a Classicist World-View to Historical-Mind¬
edness,” in A Second Collection: Papers by Bernard J. F. Lonergan, eds. William F. J. Ryan and
Bernard J. Tyrrell (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1974), 1-9.
1141 DANIEL P. HORAN OFM
recognition of the worlds complexity, the need for nuance in scholarly
inquiry, and an appreciation for fullness in the understanding of our
faith, which we seek but which we may never attain. The latter aligns bet¬
ter with the state of liquid modernity in which we find ourselves today
Diagnostically, the image of the abyss as creative womb, that space of
being in-between, where the creative work of Gods Spirit can take place,
offers us a challenge and invitation. To overcome the abyss-as-impasse
and do theology in an age of liquidity, we must shift our individual
and collective focus from the status quo and repetition of an untenable
classicist approach to God and the world toward, instead, other ways
of knowing and interpreting ourselves, the rest of creation, and God.
To this end, I suggest that what has been emerging in recent years as a
“decolonial option” or “the decolonial turn” as a way of thinking about
knowledge, interpretation, and practice offers us an important method¬
ological starting point. 202
There is not enough space here to do justice to the richness and develop¬
ment of decoloniality having risen to greater prominence as a deliberate
hermeneutical approach in recent years. 203 In brief, as theorists Cath¬
erine Walsh and Walter Mignolo explain, decoloniality “is not a new
paradigm or mode of critical thought. It is a way, option, standpoint,
analytic, project, practice, and praxis.” 204 One of the key dimensions of
a hermeneutic of decoloniality is the critical interpretation of standards
of knowing and experiencing, which have been conscripted by singular
forces that align with the expansion of the Western European colonial
enterprise. To get at this reality, we might ask: what constitutes real or le¬
gitimate knowledge, science, or scholarship? Put in a pastoral context, we
could also inquire about what is considered a real or legitimate devotion,
Christian practice, or saint to be venerated? Oftentimes, the gatekeepers
to what is considered real or legitimate are the same in both cases: those
who maintain and deploy this colonial power, in broader society and in
202 An, Decolonial Abyss, 20.
203 For more on this, see Walter D. Mignolo, 7 he Darker Side of Western Modernity: Global Fu¬
tures, Decolonial Options (Durham: Duke University Press, 2011); and Anibal Quijano, “Colo-
niality of Power, Eurocentrism, and Social Classification,” in Coloniality at Large: Latin America
and the Postcolonial Debate, eds. Mabel Morana and Carlos A. Jauregui (Durham: Duke Univer¬
sity Press, 2008), 181-224.
204 Catherine E. Walsh and Walter D. Mignolo, On Decoloniality: Concepts, Analytics, Praxis
(Durham: Duke University Press, 2018), 5.
LIQUIDITY AND THE ABYSS | 115
the church (that the history of colonization is a simultaneous and over¬
lapping history of these two realities is not coincidental here).
Those who pursue a decolonial turn or embrace a decolonial option seek
“conceptual instruments, other ways of theorizing, and other genealo¬
gies” in an effort to broaden what has typically been limited in terms of
the “real” or “legitimate” 205 Such a shift in prioritization of knowing and
interpretation moves from the centers of power to the colonial periph¬
eries, which is a move that is deeply Franciscan at its core, particularly
when one considers the intentional location of minoritas as our ground¬
ing principle. 206 It is a call for us to consider and privilege voices, expe¬
riences, and ways of knowing that are often overlooked and ignored. It
demands humility on the part of those who have found themselves the
gatekeepers of orthodoxy, tradition, and legitimacy. It recognizes that
Gods Spirit is at work wherever God pleases and not just where those
who have held power and authority say God is at work.
So, given that the context of now is liquid modernity, that we face an
abyss, and that the constructive potential that exists in this moment
includes a call to embrace the decolonial turn, I wish to highlight two
theological areas we as Franciscans need to pay special attention to and
engage in creative and constructive ways. The first is what I am calling a
“theology of authenticity” and the second is “the meaning of the human
person.” In what follows, I wish to merely propose these theological top¬
ics as a point of departure for our discussion and ongoing theological
formation, which is both shaped by and ought to inform our pastoral
praxis and community life in the forma vitae of Francis and Clare of As¬
Two Theological Loci: Authenticity and Personhood
The first theological topic I wish to draw our attention to is something
that has been a focal point of young adults from around the world as
they articulated the pressing issues that face them ahead of the 2018
205 Walsh and Mignolo, On Decoloniality, 7.
206 Alternatively, Ramon Grosfoguel refers to this as epistemological location as “border think¬
ing.” See, for example, his essay “World-Systems Analysis in the Context of Transmodernity,
Border Thinking, and Global Coloniality,” Review 29 (2006): 167-187.
116 | DANIEL P. HORAN OFM
Synod of Bishops on Young People. 207 One of the most repeated themes
that surfaced was the desire young adults had for what they named as
an “authentic church,” marked by leaders who could admit mistakes,
seek forgiveness, and accompany their younger sisters and brothers in
their respective faith journeys with Christ. They address those in hi-
erarchal leadership by name and exhort these leaders to be “transpar¬
ent, welcoming, honest, inviting, communicative, accessible, joyful and
interactive.” 208 To this end, the challenge that arises is an invitation for
us to reflect on our own theology of leadership, holiness, and sin in the
church—something all the more pressing in the wake of the recently
revealed history of sexual abuse cover-up witnessed to in the 2018 Penn¬
sylvania Grand Jury Report. 209
What young people seem to be naming is the fact that we as a faith com¬
munity, especially those of us in ecclesiastical leadership roles as men
religious, are not working adequately enough to present the life of the
Gospel authentically. We have too easily forgotten that one of the earli¬
est and central Christian ecclesial claims is that the church is holy, and
yet, as described in Lumen gentium , it is “at once holy and always in
need of purification.” 210 The sinfulness of the church is seen in both the
personal sins of its members, including its leaders, as well as collectively
in the church’s historical complicity in various structural evils over the
This is where I believe the work of the Franciscan theological tradition
is so important. Deeply human, rooted in an incarnational understand¬
ing of God’s humility and desire for creation, we celebrate the goodness
of our created world and our human family, while at the same time we
recognize the deeply fallen state of our affairs. The Franciscan tradition
started as a medieval lay penitential movement after all! For this reason,
207 For a fuller account and analysis of what will only be briefly explored here, see Daniel P.
Horan, “Authenticity, Vocation, and the Risk of Faith: Hopes and Challenges for the 2018 Synod
on Young People,” unpublished keynote addresses (September 2018), https://youtu.be/AGKfUd-
k8QeU (Part I) and https://voutu.be/m75GVVYejxY (Part II).
208 See “Final Document from the Pre-Synodal Meeting” (March 2018), no. 11 , http://www.syn-
209 See Office of the Attorney General, “Pennsylvania Diocese Victims Report” (July 27, 2018).
Available online at: https:// www.attorneygeneral.gov/report/ . For a constructively critical en¬
gagement with the primary source material and report, see Peter Steinfels, “The PA Grand-Jury
Report: Not What it Seems,” Commonweal (March 21, 2019), http://www.commonwealmaga-
2,0 LG 8.
LIQUIDITY AND THE ABYSS | 117
we have never been willfully ignorant of the reality of our simultaneous
sinfulness and justification in Christ. Other religious traditions within
the Catholic Church are far less comfortable with this tension. Further¬
more, this tension is heightened in our context by a cultural fear of litiga¬
tion and the obsessive need to be right or to win at all costs.
Rather than start our theological narratives with a presumption of eccle-
sial purity and perfection, perhaps we would do well to heed the wisdom
of St. Francis in his Admonitions or look to the lesser-known and, at
times, uncomfortable stories of our founder that center on his making
mistakes, offending or sinning, and yet never shying away from the need
to admit his wrongdoing, seek reconciliation, and offer penance. Rath¬
er than contribute to a misperception of moral weakness or ambiguity,
such public practices convey to young adults and all people a more hon¬
est face of ecclesial leadership and pastoral ministry. We are not perfect.
The Church, which is composed of all the baptized, the members of the
Body of Christ, is not perfect. Why should we pretend to be otherwise?
Fear of further instability of mission and identity in the age of liquid
modernity leads many church leaders and theologians to grasp onto the
melting ice floes of a classicist worldview. But this attitude and prac¬
tice only contributes to a deepening abyss between reality and falsity,
between the church as some wish it were and the church as it really is.
Embracing a decolonial option means that our starting point, as those in
a privileged location of leadership and ministry, ought to be one of hu¬
mility that allows us to hear the experiences and realities of the women
and men—such as the young adults from around the globe—and follow
their lead, learn from their wisdom, and empower their action. While it
is true that some young adults occupy social locations that would not be
considered marginal, such as many of those in Euro-American contexts,
nevertheless the whole demographic of young adults is traditionally sub¬
jugated by an older, clerical population of ecclesiastical leaders. Further¬
more, those parts of the world where young-adult Catholics are found
tend to be in locations variously identified as the “two-thirds world,”
which locates such a population in a double-bind of peripherality.
The second theological topic I wish to name is that of personhood or,
more directly, what does it mean to be human? The received tradition
of theological anthropology rooted in an Aristotelian-Thomistic frame
is breaking under the weight of historical, social, natural, psychological
118 | DANIEL P. HORAN OFM
sciences, philosophy, and theology that have provided important and
unassailable insights about what it means to be human over the last eight
centuries. Furthermore, the lived experiences of women and men in var¬
ious cultures and contexts at best do not confirm, and more often con¬
tradict the proposals that have grounded so much of the way our magis¬
terial teaching and theological reflection on humanity and morality have
been articulated. I think we have to take seriously our received tradition
but not merely repeat it with a kind of fideism. Instead, we must have the
epistemological, theological, and pastoral humility to receive input from
the world around us that challenges the accuracy of our claims.
It is not accurate to cast the experience of sexual and gender diversity
as postmodern ideologies bent on ushering in a radical relativism. It is
not accurate to cast the differing experiences of embodiment and social
location marked by race, class, ability, national status, and other charac¬
teristics as irrelevant to our understanding of Christian anthropology.
It is not accurate to suggest that the reality of transgender persons is
untrue or that gay and lesbian persons are merely electing to make a
counter-cultural choice about sexual attraction. As the saying goes, just
because something is new to you does not make it objectively novel. The
compression of time and space in an age of globalization and liquid mo¬
dernity has made access to and created platforms for the dissemination
of diverse human experiences that must be taken seriously and without
prejudgment if we wish to assert authentically our belief in the inherent
and unalienable dignity and value of each and every human person.
One of the pressing theological challenges for Franciscans in the twen¬
ty-first century is to engage these realities with a Christian theological
response that is grounded in the tradition but is also applicable in light
of the diversity of experiences, identities, and locations of the widely
diverse members of the human family. The good news for us is that I
believe there are an abundance of pastoral and theological resources
that form what I often call the “minority opinion” within the theologi¬
cal history of the last millennium. While Leo XIII (d. 1903) effectively
elevated Thomas Aquinas (d. 1274) as theologian par excellence to the
near exclusion of other thinkers, 211 he did not eradicate their thought
and writings. Bonaventure (d. 1274), Peter John Olivi (d. 1298), Duns
211 See Leo XIII, Aeterni patris, “On the Restoration of Christian Philosophy” (4 August 1879),
http://w2.vatican.va/content/leo-xiii/en/encychcals/documents/hf 1-xiii enc 04081879 aeter-
LIQUIDITY AND THE ABYSS | 119
Scotus (d. 1308), Angela of Foligno (d. 1309), William of Ockham (d.
1347), and so many other luminaries have been under-resourced and
offer perfectly orthodox yet alternative approaches to many of our most
pressing concerns. 212
Embracing a decolonial option prioritizes not only the often subjugated
experiences and ways of knowing that belong to marginalized women
and men, but it also prioritizes our historical hermeneutics, our way of
interpreting and seeing. It challenges us to go back and look at what Sco¬
tus says differently than Thomas, what other figures say in a manner that
has not been adequately heard to date. Embracing a decolonial option
means starting not with a sense that we already have the answers, but
that we have yet to hear the experiences and insights of a significant por¬
tion of our human family. Indeed, if Anselm (d. 1109) was right about
the enterprise of theology, then we must be in the business of seeking
greater understanding of the faith we profess—this is an ongoing respon¬
As Franciscans concerned with lifelong theological formation, commit¬
ted as we are to meet women and men where they are in the spirit of our
itinerant tradition, we must be advocates, personally and collectively, for
starting with the voices and experiences of those previously ignored or
overlooked. We must ask ourselves: whose experience counts as the start¬
ing point for our theological reflection? Furthermore, we must be open
to renewing our sense of theological anthropology that is true to our
Christian faith, but is also capacious enough to hold the experiences of
LGBTQ persons, women of color, the poor and outcast, and all others as
much as it has for the Euro-American, white, male cleric.
In summary, what I have been advocating here is a concerted shift in the
way we approach theological questions and respond to the experiences
and circumstances of the women and men of our time. Having recog¬
nized the state of our context as liquid and the abyss that stands between
where we are and from where theology has too often come, we are chal¬
lenged with the need for a renewed sense of authenticity and person-
hood. This raises a number of critical questions and leaves us with more
212 This is something addressed explicitly in my forthcoming book. Catholicity and Emerging
Personhood: A Contemporary Theological Anthropology (Maryknoll: Orbis, 2019).
120 | DANIEL P. HORAN OFM
queries than answers. I want to draw our attention to a few of these.
Among the questions I wish to leave us to ponder and discuss are these:
• With whom or with what do we begin our theologies?
• Whose voices are heard, whose experiences count?
• What does it mean to say that we are at once holy and sin¬
• What does authenticity look like in the church? How do
we understand the human person?
• What role (if any) does the abundant diversity of the hu¬
man experience play in our theological anthropology?
• How might we lead the way in modeling—within the
church and beyond—a mode of studying and doing theolo¬
gy such that our pastoral practice is grounded in a coherent,
sensible, and relevant understanding of the human person?
of Missionary Disciples
John Corriveou OFM Cop
P rior to St. Francis, religious life in the Church was modelled on the
early Christian community described in the Book of Acts:
All who believed were together and had all things in com¬
mon; they would sell their possessions and goods and dis¬
tribute the proceeds to all, as any had need. Day by day, as
they spent much time together in the temple, they broke
bread at home and ate their food with glad and generous
hearts, praising God and having the goodwill of all the peo¬
ple. (Acts 2:44-47)
Consecrated life established on this model continues to radiate the living
presence of God in our world.
However, Francis consciously chose another model for his brotherhood,
namely, a discipleship model. St. Francis chose to model his order on the
life of Christ and his disciples: “After the Lord gave me some brothers, no
one showed me what I had to do, but the Most High Himself revealed to
me that I should live after the pattern of the Holy Gospel. 213
This assumes critical importance as we consider our Franciscan call to
mission in the Church today. In Evangelii gaudium , Pope Francis ex¬
tends this vision of discipleship to the entire Church, challenging us to
be a missionary Church, a community of Missionary Disciples. I wish to
consider the contribution which our Franciscan tradition brings to this
challenge of forming the Church as a community of Missionary Dis¬
2,3 Test 14 = FA:ED 1:125.
122 | JOHN CORRIVEAU OFM CAP
The Embrace of Franciscan Brotherhood Is First and Foremost the
Embrace of Jesus Christ
Consider, O human being, in what great excellence the Lord
God has placed you, for he created and formed you to the
image of his beloved Son according to the body and to His
likeness according to the Spirit. 214
Bonaventure helps us to understand the perspective of Francis: “In the
beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word
was God” (Jn 1:1). Reflecting on these opening words of Johns Gospel,
Bonaventure teaches that the Word is the expressed “Image” of the Fa¬
ther: the total self-giving love of the Father is imaged in the Son. Reflect¬
ing on the next passage of John: “All things came into being through
[the Word], and without [the Word] not one thing came into being” (Jn
1:3), Bonaventure states that the Word is the “exemplar”—the template
or model—for all of creation. Furthermore, within creation, the human
person is created to be an expressed image of the Word. 215 Therefore, Bo¬
naventure speaks of the human person as the “little word” of the Father.
Jesus is the “Definitive Word” of the Father in the flesh—we are “little
words of the Father” in the flesh. When this “little word” is spoken with
clarity in and through our lives, God is made visible in the world. 216
St. Francis modelled this reality in an incredible manner. For Francis,
imitation of Jesus was doing what Jesus did. Imitation of Jesus was liv¬
ing as Jesus lived, thinking as Jesus thought. It was all this and incred¬
ibly more! Francis sought to reproduce in his life the same relationship
which Jesus lived with the Father! Imitation of Jesus was an invitation to
enter into Trinitarian Relationship. Francis sought to be the “little word”
modelled perfectly on the Incarnate Word, Jesus Christ. This is the pro¬
found significance of the third defining moment in the conversion expe¬
rience of Francis: “From now one I will say freely, ‘Our Father who art in
heaven,’ and not ‘My Father Pietro di Bernardone’.” 217
2,4 Adm V.l = FA:ED 1:131.
215 As cited in Ilia Delio, Simply Bonaventure: An Introduction to His Life, Thought and Writings
(New York: New City Press, 2001), 72.
216 As cited in Ilia Delio, The Humility of God: A Franciscan Perspective (Cincinnati: St. Anthony
Messenger Press, 2005), 61.
217 2C 1:1 = FA:ED 11:251.
A BROTHERHOOD OF MISSIONARY DISCIPLES I 123
In imitation of Jesus, Francis seeks to give himself totally to his rela¬
tionship with the Father. Jesus takes him by the hand and shows him
the way. At his baptism by John, Jesus enters the Jordan River as the
carpenter from Nazareth. This is a profound conversion experience in
which the Father touches the passionate heart of Jesus, “You are my Son,
the Beloved; with you I am well pleased” (Mk 1: 11). Jesus is moved to
the depth of his being and emerges from the Jordan as the living gospel
of God. Jesus leads Francis along the same path of conversion! A short
time after the event before the Bishop of Assisi, Francis hears the voice
of Jesus in the Gospel of Matthew sending his disciples two by two to
preach the good news of penance and peace (cf. Mt 10). He is moved to
the depth of his being. Just as the Father touched the passionate heart of
Jesus at his Baptism, so Jesus, through his Word, touches the passionate
heart of Francis: “This is what I want, for this I yearn, this is what I desire
to do with all my heart!” 218
In Francis we see the true meaning of conversion, which is defined, not
by what we leave behind, but by what we embrace! The conversion of
Francis was his embrace of Jesus Christ. The consequence of his conver¬
sion was the abandonment of his life as the playboy of Assisi. In Francis
we also see that conversion is not a once-and-for-all affair! His conver¬
sion continued throughout life. At the end of his life he exhorts himself
and all of us: “Let us begin... and make progress, because up to now we
have made too little progress.” 219
Pope Francis reminds us that “mission is at once a passion for Jesus and
a passion for his people” (EG 268). If our Franciscan brotherhood is to
be a force of mission and evangelization in our world, each of us must
continually renew our passion for Jesus and his people.
In Luke 6:12-49, Jesus shows us the way. Jesus has just spent the night
in prayer with his disciples on the mountain. At daybreak, he calls the
disciples to him and appoints the Twelve. Jesus, then, leads them down
the mountain and arrives at the plain where he encounters a multitude
of people (cf. Lk 6:17). The scene is dramatic. The apostles and disciples,
gathered around and behind him on the slope, witness his powerful pres¬
ence among the people, whom Luke tells us, have come “to hear him and
be healed of their diseases;... all in the crowd were trying to touch him,
2,8 1C, First Book, IX:22 = FA:ED 1:201-202.
219 Julian of Speyer, The Life of Saint Francis, XII = FA:ED 1:414.
1241 JOHN CORRIVEAU OFM CAP
for power came out from him and healed all of them” (6:18-19). Luke
continues: “Then, he looked up at his disciples and said: ‘Blessed are you
who are poor ...” (6:20). In Luke, the beatitudes are addressed primar¬
ily to the apostles and disciples for the world. The beatitudes—poverty,
humility—are not simply ascetical virtues meant to perfect us; rather,
they are meant to forge bonds of communion and love to transform the
world! Jesus challenges his disciples to share the saving, transforming
power which they can visibly see him exercising among the people by
configuring their lives according to the beatitudes of the Kingdom. But
there is more!
Again, in Luke, specifically addressing the disciples, Jesus tells them a
Can a blind person guide a blind person? Will not both fall
into a pit? A disciple is not above the teacher... Why do you
see the speck in your neighbor’s eye, but do not notice the
log in your own eye? (6:39-41).
Can a blind person act as a guide to a blind person? Just as the preaching
of the beatitudes takes new meaning by referring back to Jesus’s electric
relationship with the crowds, so this passage takes meaning from the
introduction of the Kingdom event: “He went out to the mountain to
pray; and he spent the night in prayer to God” (6:12). Only a return to
the mountain, to contemplation, can open the eyes of our hearts, allow
our passion to be re-ignited, for Jesus and the transforming power of
the beatitudes. Only contemplation of the face of God can transform
the beatitudes from social theory to faith practice. We see this in Fran¬
cis’s embrace of evangelical poverty. Standing before the Bishop of As¬
sisi, contemplating the face of God, Francis strips himself not only of the
clothing provided by Pietro di Bernardone, but the security his wealth
promised, and entrusts his security to God alone. Contemplation of the
face of God transforms the beatitudes from social theory into faith prac¬
“A disciple is not above the teacher ...” (Lk 6:40). It is important to ask:
“Who is our teacher?” Through whose eyes do we look upon the poor?
Through whose eyes do we look upon the consumerism and greed of our
world? Is it the daily newspaper or nightly television news? A journal of
sociology or even of theology? Or, do we listen to the Word of God in
A BROTHERHOOD OF MISSIONARY DISCIPLES | 125
daily prayer? “A disciple is not above the teacher!” If the daily newspaper
or sociological journal or even a theological text is our only teacher, we
are unable to lead our people beyond our teacher! The person of Jesus,
the Word of God, purifies us and continually reveals to us our true iden¬
tity, the identity of the poor, and the true identity of our world.
“Why do you see the speck in your neighbor s eye, but do not notice the
log in your own eye?” (Lk 6:41). We are painfully aware how the tol¬
eration of sexual misconduct on the part of the clergy has blighted the
Churchs proclamation of the gospel. Our newspapers make us aware of
that! However, do we realize how our newspapers and televisions immu¬
nize us to the violence, greed, and dominating power that so oppress our
world and whose roots exist in every human heart, including our own?
Only a return with Jesus to the mountain, only the contemplation of the
holiness and compassion of God can help us to recognize the dimen¬
sions of our immersion into the corporate sinfulness of our world and
even the corporate sinfulness of our Church, which impedes us in ex¬
tending the healing touch of Jesus in our world. Prayer and contempla¬
tion must transform us from ecclesiastical functionaries into apostles/
disciples/ministers of the mysteries of God:
Prayer to God, as the breathing of love, has its origins from
a movement of the Holy Spirit through which an interior
person listens to the voice of God speaking to the heart. For
(it is) God who has loved us first. 220
For Francis, Clare, and Bonaventure, contemplation is seeing with the
eyes of the heart! Prayer and contemplation must constantly ignite and
re-ignite in our hearts the passion expressed by Bonaventure as he de¬
scribes the Journey of the Soul into God:
But if you wish to know how these things come about,
Ask grace not instruction,
Desire not understanding,
The groaning of prayer not diligent reading,
The Spouse not the teacher,
God not man,
Darkness not clarity;
220 The Constitutions of the Capuchin Friars Minor 45:1, https://www.ofmcap.org/en/notizie/altre-
126 | JOHN CORRIVEAU OFM CAP
Not light but the fire
That totally inflames and carries us into God ...
This fire is God,
And his furnace is in Jerusalem;
And Christ enkindles it
In the heat of his burning passion. 221
Joy of the Gospel
In Evangelii gaudium , Pope Francis has a number of statements that
merit our reflection:
1. “The spiritual life comes to be identified with a few re¬
ligious exercises which can offer a certain comfort but
which do not encourage encounter with others, engage¬
ment with the world or a passion for evangelization”
2. “Standing before him with open hearts, letting him
look at us, we see that gaze of love which Nathaniel
glimpsed on the day when Jesus said to him: ‘I saw you
under the fig tree”’ (Jn 1:48).
3. “A true missionary, who never ceases to be a dis¬
ciple, knows that Jesus walks with him, speaks to him,
breathes with him, works with him.”
4. “Mission is at once a passion for Jesus and a passion for
his people.” 222
Thus, we pose the question: In the animation of our fraternities and in
promoting our mission, we often presume the personal commitment of
each brother to Jesus Christ. How can we re-awaken in our brothers the
passion for Christ that we see in Francis: “This is what I want, for this I
yearn, this is what I desire to do with all my heart!” 223 “Let us begin... and
make progress, because up to now we have made too little progress.” 224
221 Souls Journey into God, 7.6, trans. Cousins ,115.
222 EG 78, 264, 266, and 268 respectively.
223 See note 217 above.
224 See note 218 above.
\ BROTHERHOOD OF MISSIONARY DISCIPLES I 127
For Francis, the Embrace of Jesus Leads Directly to Brotherhood
“After the Lord gave me some brothers, no one showed me
what I had to do, but the Most High Himself revealed to me
that I should live after the pattern of the Holy Gospel” 225
Francis chose humility, minority, as the defining characteristic of his
brotherhood. Bonaventure gives the theological foundation of this
choice. Bonaventure tells us: the turning of the Father toward the Son in
total self-giving love is the Fathers humility. 226 Therefore, in his “Prais¬
es of God,” when Francis addresses God, he does not use the adjective
“humble” but the noun “humility.” 227 Humility is not a quality of God.
Humility is the essence of God as love. 228 Humility defines the TO BE of
the Father—the very essence of the Father—eternally turned toward the
Son in Self-Giving Love. The option for relationship defines the humility
of God. God is communion of Father, Son, and Spirit made one in total,
self-giving love. We are accustomed to speak of one God in three per¬
sons; it is more precise and correct to speak of three persons who are one
God. When we speak of one God in three persons, it is possible to think
of God as a static reality. When we speak of three persons who are one
God, the unity of God is ecstatic and dynamic. Bonaventure situates the
mystery of Church communion within the dynamism of this mystery of
Trinitarian Relationship. He speaks of the “Eternal Word” in the bosom
of the Father—the “Incarnate Word” enfleshed in Jesus Christ—and the
“Inspired Word” enfleshed in the communion of the Church. 229 Just as
there is only one Word, so there is one communion. There are not two
sets of communion—one among Divine Persons and the other among
human persons with the latter called to replicate or imitate the former.
There is one mystery of communion which includes God and humanity
as beloved partners in perichoresis , circumincessio , “the dance of life.” 230
We are taken up into Trinitarian relationship, Trinitarian communion.
This understanding of the communion of the Church is echoed in Pref¬
ace VIII for Sundays in Ordinary Times:
225 Test 14 = FA:ED 1:125.
226 Delio, Humility of God, 42.
227 “The Praises of God.” FA:ED 1:109, line 4.
228 Delio, Humility of God, 42.
229 Delio, Simply Bonaventure, 87.
230 Delio, Simply Bonaventure, 41.
128 | JOHN CORRIVEAU OFM CAP
For when your children were scattered afar by sin,
through the Blood of your Son and the power of the Spirit,
you gathered them again to yourself,
that a people, formed as one by the unity of the Trinity,
made the body of Christ and the temple of the Holy Spirit,
might... be manifest as the Church. 231
In this Trinitarian understanding of communion, our order finds the
dynamism and meaning of the witness of fraternal living. The Conven¬
tual Constitutions speak of fraternity as “icon of the Trinity” 232 and the
Capuchin Constitutions speak of fraternity as “a human space inhabited
by the Trinity”:
The Church, born from the side of Christ as a sacrament of
unity, is essentially a mystery of communion, whose rich¬
ness and depth are reflected in fraternal living, a human
space inhabited by the Trinity. 233
There are three characteristics of the early Franciscan fraternity which
strongly impact our mission in the Church. First, the early Franciscan
fraternity was based the personal relationship of each brother with Jesus
Christ and, through Christ, with each of his brothers in fraternity. Fra¬
ternity is not the embrace of structure. Rather, it is the embrace of each
of our brothers. It is profoundly relational.
Second, Franciscan fraternity is to be the Inspired Word. Franciscan
fraternity is not simply a group of brothers called together to serve the
Church. Francis formed his brotherhood TO BE Church. The fraternal
gospel life, inspired by Francis, is a whirlpool drawing all who encounter
it, all who witness and experience it, into a lived experience of Trinitar¬
ian Love: “a human space inhabited by the Trinity.” 234
Third, these two basic characteristics of the early Franciscan Order were
strongly influenced by the fact that Francis chose an itinerant model of
life. Itineracy in the Franciscan tradition is more than wandering! In an
231 The Roman Missal, English translation according to the Third Typica Edition (Collegeville:
Liturgical Press, 2011), 286.
232 Constitutions of the Order of Friars Minor Conventual, no. 62.
233 The Constitutions of the Capuchin Friars Minor, no. 83.3, https://www.ofmcap.org/en/notizie/
234 Constitutions of the Capuchin Friars Minor, no. 83.3.
A BROTHERHOOD OF MISSIONARY DISCIPLES I 129
itinerant model, fraternal life takes new forms not only place to place, but
also with each group of brothers. Our discipleship model has been in¬
stitutionalized, yet the itinerant origins of our charism continue to have
important implications today and must continue to infuse our fraternal
vision and our fraternal service. All communal forms of religious life are
functionally relational. However, generally speaking, in the “Acts Mod¬
el” of religious life discussed above, structure gives rise to, determines,
and gives form and stability to fraternal relationships. In the disciple¬
ship model established by Francis, relationships give rise to structure
and structure exists to sustain relationships: Franciscan communion
does not flow from structure, rather, structure flows from Franciscan
communion. This is very clearly expressed in the Conventual Constitu¬
tions when speaking about the Conventual chapter as “the privileged
instrument of communion” which must “establish a suitable schedule for
communal exercises which take into account the daily life according to
the spirit of the fraternity and of each of the friars.” 235 Fraternal relation¬
ships are the glue which holds all structures together: “As brothers given
to each other by the Lord ... we should accept one another gratefully.” 236
Friars don t fit the structures; rather structures are molded to fit the fri¬
ars, express their unity, and release the creativity of each.
From these observations, I wish to develop four consequences that touch
our mission in the United States today:
First, we are an Order of brothers. The brotherhood we share is pro¬
foundly relational. Whenever Francis refers to himself, he always refers
to himself as “I, brother Francis.” Leo was an ordained minister, but he
was “brother Leo.” Furthermore, in both cases it is “brother” with a small
case “b,” not a capital “B” because the title is relational not occupational!
Francis was enthralled by the fact that, in his Incarnation, Jesus became
his brother. Francis became acutely aware that just as Jesus became Fran¬
cis’s brother in the incarnation, Jesus also became brother to every man,
woman and child and forged a fraternal relationship with all of creation.
Francis’s relationship with Jesus caused him to become brother to every
man, woman, child and even every living creature on the earth. This is
more than cute; it is revolutionary and fundamental to our charism. The
three branches of the First Order have been united in recent times in pe-
235 Constitutions of the Order of Friars Minor Conventual, no. 63.
236 Constitutions of the Capuchins Friars Minor, no. 89.1.
130 | JOHN CORRIVEAU OFM CAP
titioning the Church to recognize the unique nature of our brotherhood
and to dispense our Order from the requirement that only clerics can
assume the ministry of leadership in our Order. This is important for the
unity of our brotherhood. It is also an important witness to the Church
that a Franciscan cleric can be subject to a lay member of the Church
without impeding but rather enhancing his priestly ministry.
However, there is another equally important ecclesial dimension. A
Franciscan who identifies himself as brother as Francis identified him¬
self as brother will minister to his neighbour in an entirely different way.
There can be no hint of domination in an authentic fraternal relation¬
ship! This is a strong witness and antidote to clericalism in our Order
and in our Church. Pope Francis reminds us that priesthood has author¬
ity; however, “its key and axis is not power understood as domination,
but the power to administer the sacrament of the Eucharist.” 237 Francis¬
can fraternal relationships, lived joyfully, should become a force to re¬
define priestly relationships which are “totally ordered to the holiness
of Christs members.” 238 Aside from how we may be addressed by our
people, a friar priest or a friar bishop who identifies himself as “brother”
will exercise his ministry in a different manner.
1. “Some people want a purely spiritual Christ, without
flesh and without the cross ... True faith in the incarnate
Son of God is inseparable from self-giving, from mem¬
bership in the community, from service, from reconcili¬
ation with others”
2. “Gods word teaches that our brothers and sisters are
the prolongation of the incarnation for each of us.” 239
Question: “A friar priest ... or a friar bishop ... who identifies himself
as ‘brother will exercise his ministry in a different manner.” Do you see
this as an antidote to clericalism in our Order and the Church? Can we
provide concrete examples?
237 EG 104.
238 EG 104.
239 EG 88 and 179.
A BROTHERHOOD OF MISSIONARY DISCIPLES I 131
Second, Francis formed his brotherhood TO BE Church. Franciscan
fraternity is not simply a group of brothers called together to serve the
Church. Francis formed his brotherhood TO BE Church. Inspired by
Francis, fraternal gospel life is a whirlpool drawing all who encounter it,
all who witness it, into a lived experience of Trinitarian Love, “a human
space inhabited by the Trinity.” We remember the incident in the life of
Francis when he invited a young brother to accompany him to preach
in Assisi. They walked through the town greeting all whom they met.
When they returned to the Portiuncula, the young brother asked when
they were going to preach. The response: “We already have!” Pope Fran¬
cis reminds us, “It is not by proselytizing that the Church grows, but ‘by
attraction?’ 240 This assumes even greater importance in the Church in
the United States today. The credibility of Church teaching is severely
conditioned by decisions to protect institutional structures at the price
of care for the vulnerable.
The itinerant nature of the early brotherhood also influences this witness
of fraternal life. Just as fraternal life took new forms place to place and
with each new group of brothers, so their gospel witness also spoke to
the particular challenges of each new group of people they met: think of
the Wolf of Gubbio. 241 It was not a “one-size-fits-all-Christianity,” rather
the witness and proclamation of gospel life was applied to each person
and each community they encountered. They brought an encounter with
Jesus Christ and not an ecclesiastical structure.
Evangelii gaudium :
1. “The spiritual life comes to be identified with a few re¬
ligious exercises which can offer a certain comfort but
which do not encourage encounter with others, engage¬
ment with the world or a passion for evangelization.”
2. “Salvation ... is for everyone. God ... has chosen to call
them together as a people and not as isolated individu¬
240 EG 15.
241 LF1, chapter 21 = FA:ED 111:603.
132 | JOHN CORRIVEAU OFM CAP
3. “The Church must be a place of mercy freely given,
where everyone can feel welcomed, loved, forgiven and
encouraged to live the good life of the Gospel”
4. “It is not by proselytizing that the Church grows, but
5. “The human person is always situated in a culture ...
Grace supposes culture, and God’s gift becomes flesh in
the culture of those who receive it.” 242
Question: How can we call our local fraternities to avoid “one-size-fits-
all-Christianity” and to foster an outreach of witness and service which
creates space “where everyone can feel welcomed, loved, forgiven and
encouraged to live the good life of the gospel?” 243
Third, this is an Order Obedient to, but separate from, the Hierarchi¬
cal Authority of the Church. The early Franciscan brotherhood and its
mission was carried out in communion with and in total obedience to
the hierarchical authority of the Church. When Francis had only a dozen
followers, he went to Rome to ask Honorius III to approve their way of
gospel life and witness. However, the brotherhood never formed part of
the hierarchical structure of the Church! Even when the Order became
institutionalized, it remained obedient to the hierarchical structure of
the Church but outside of it. The friary and the friary chapel were inte¬
gral to the faith life of the local communities, but they did not participate
in hierarchical authority. This gave the brothers a unique relationship
with the faithful among whom they were recognized as brothers of the
people. I am certain that this was not unique to the Capuchin branch
of the Order but was shared by our entire Franciscan family. This rela¬
tionship with both the faithful and the hierarchy provided a privileged
platform to announce the gospel of Christ.
Speaking about the Capuchin branch, and I presume it is true of other
branches of the Franciscan family, this changed in the mid-1800’s when
we became a missionary Order. We became immersed in the hierarchi¬
cal authority of the Church, taking responsibility not only for parishes
but for entire Vicariates! We appointed not only pastors, but bishops!
242 EG 78,113,114,15, and 115.
243 EG 3.
A BROTHERHOOD OF MISSIONARY DISCIPLES I 133
Does not the present crisis in leadership in our Church summon us to
repossess our tradition? Functioning outside but totally obedient to the
hierarchical structures, could we not immerse ourselves in fraternal rela¬
tionships with our people and lead them to renewed trust in the author¬
ity structures of our Church? We could do so with no conflict of interest.
l.“We speak more about law than about grace, more
about the Church than about Christ, more about the
Pope than about Gods word.” 244
Question: How can we consciously re-possess our tradition of obedience
to, but separation from the hierarchical authority of the Church?
Fourth, The Holy Spirit is the General Minister of our Order. St. Fran¬
cis tells us that the Holy Spirit is the “General Minister of our Order.” 245
In Trinitarian relationship, the Holy Spirit is the bond of unity between
Father and Son. Raniero Cantalamessa (b. 1934), preacher to the papal
household, often refers to the Holy Spirit as “The Divine Us.” 246 It is not
we who enter into relationship with the Holy Trinity, it is the Holy Spirit,
the “General Minister,” who draws us into relationship, creating “a hu¬
man space inhabited by the Trinity.” The Franciscan Order is a network
of provinces. Each province is a network of local fraternities. Just as the
unity of the Trinity is dynamic, happening here and now, so each frater¬
nity must be the same living, dynamic reality. The unity of the fraternity
is not a structural unity, happening in the moment I become assigned
to that fraternity and accustom myself to the rhythm of this particular
group of brothers. Like Trinitarian unity, Franciscan unity must be dy¬
namic and ecstatic. Franciscan unity must generate an energy which em¬
braces daily all the brothers, each in his own uniqueness and giftedness.
This gospel energy must burst forth to embrace the world.
This defines authority in our brotherhood. The primary purpose of a
minister s authority is not “to get the job done.” Nor is it simply “to make
244 EG 38.
245 2C, Second Book, CXLV:193 = FA:ED 11:371.
246 E.g., his 2009 address at the 6 th World Meeting of Families in Mexico City, online at https://ze-
nit.org/articles/father-cantalamessa-on-what-marriage-needs . The idea is borrowed from Ger¬
man theologian Heribert Miihlen, Der Heilige Geist als Person (Munster: Aschendorfer Verlag,
1341 JOHN CORRIVEAU OFM CAP
the right decisions” Rather, the minister must draw the brothers into
communion and activate the gifts of each brother for the service of the
fraternity and our gospel mission to the world.
The Holy Spirit, the General Minister of our Order, calls the local frater¬
nity to be formed as the wise virgins of Matthew 25:1-13. As missionary
disciples, we seek to touch and respond to the deepest desires of each
person and of each society in the world around us, for this reveals the
presence of God. Joined in local chapter, the brothers, like the wise vir¬
gins of Matthew 25, are constantly to scan the horizons of their society
and, especially, the people among whom we are planted, seeking signs of
the emerging presence of the Lord, seeking to touch God in each living
Evangelii gaudium :
1. “All of us are asked ... to go forth from our own com¬
fort zone in order to reach all the peripheries in need of
the light of the gospel.”
2. ‘“Mere administration can no longer be enough.
Throughout the world let us be permanently in a state
3. “Only the person who feels happiness in seeking the
good of others, in desiring their happiness, can be a mis¬
4. “Christs resurrection is not an even of the past; it con¬
tains a vital power which has permeated this world.” 247
Questions: How can we as ministers move beyond mere administration
to foster a brotherhood permanently in a state of mission? And wow
can the local chapter or conventual chapter truly become “the privileged
instrument of communion”: 248 discerning and uniting the gifts of each of
the brothers in mission, and discerning the signs of the presence of the
Lord in the people we serve?
247 EG 20, 25,272, and 276.
248 Constitutions of the Order of Friars Minor Conventual, no. 63.
A BROTHERHOOD OF MISSIONARY DISCIPLES I 135
I wish to close by returning to Bonaventures vision of Trinitarian rela¬
tionship. God is communion of Father, Son and Spirit made one in total
self-giving love. The Love-Who-Is-God, is not self-contained: the Father
loving the Son, the Son loving the Father, the Father and Son One-in-
the Spirit, forming a self-contained spiral of Eternal Love! Trinitarian-
Unity-in-Love is ecstatic and dynamic, bursting outward and giving
birth to creation and to history. In a similar manner, Franciscan frater¬
nity, Icon of the Trinity, “a human space inhabited by the Trinity,” is not
self-contained. It must burst forth into the world in compassionate love.
The year 1517 is recognized by most Christians as one that inaugurated the Protestant
Reformation and led to unparalleled divisions in Western Christianity. For
Franciscans, 1517 was also a year of division. It was that year that Pope Leo X issued his
papal bull Ite Vos that officially divided the “first order” Franciscans into Conventuals
and Observants (the Capuchins were founded roughly a decade later).
In recent years, motivated by multiple factors, First Order Franciscans along with friars
from other Franciscan families, have increasingly sought to collaborate in global
initiatives and local ventures.
Catholic 'theological Union in Chicago is one venue in which Franciscans in the United
States have collaborated, especially around issues of ministerial training and
formation. In 2017 and 2018 two distinctive events brought together representatives
from various Franciscan families for shared study and reflection. These essays,
collected from the presentations that punctuated those two convenings, are brought
together in this volume as both testimony to and impetus for the ongoing collaboration
of the followers of Francis and Clare, affirming their common charism and
commitment to the gospel of Jesus Christ they are professed to live.
Regis Armstrong OFM Cap is Emeritus Pro fessor o f Theology mid Religious Studies at Vie Catholic University of
America in Washington » DC
John Corn yea u OFM Cap is the former Minister General of the Order of Friars Minor Capuchin and retired bishop
of the diocese of Nelson, British Columbia, currently residing in Toronto,
Edward Foley OFM Cap is Duns Scotus Professor o f Spirituality and Professor o f liturgy ami Music at Catholic
Theological Union in Chicago.
Margaret Guider OSF is Associate Professor ofMissiology ana Chair ofthe Ecclesiastical Faculty at Boston College’s
School of Theology and Ministry.
Dan Moran OFM is Assistant Professor of Systematic Theology and Spirituality at Catholic Theological Union in
Dominic V. Monti OFM is Distinguished Professor of Franciscan Studies at St. Bonavetdure University in St.
Bonavenlure, New York
Michael Perry OFM is General Minister ofthe Order of Friars Minor, residing in Rome.
Jude Winkler OFM Conv is an Assistant General for the Conventual Franciscan Order, resiiling in Rome.
Cover designed by Holly Silcox
Artwork by Sister Kay Francis Berger CJSF, 1933-2017, Artist Laureate (
the Sisters of St. Francis of Mary Immaculate. Ail rights reserved.